Questions abound as cannabis becomes legal

A stock photo of marijuana buds. Photo courtesy: Dank Depot

10/17 might not become as iconic a date as 4/20, but for those who partake in cannabis, today marks an important milestone.

At midnight, Canada became only the second nation to legalize recreational marijuana and the largest to do so on a national scale.

The only other country to do so is Uruguay, which legalized recreational use last year. A handful of US states have also legalized the substance, though it remains illegal at a national level. While possession and use of small amounts of cannabis are tolerated under Dutch laws, cannabis is technically illegal in the Netherlands, despite pot-smoking tourists flocking to Amsterdam coffee shops throughout the year.

Despite the  Liberals’ inclusion of marijuana legalization in their election platform, and the much-discussed process of legalization the country has been undertaking for the better part of 2018, people still have questions about how the use of the drug will affect their lives.

According to a pair of press releases sent out Tuesday morning, Saskatchewan business owners and drivers are concerned with how legalization will affect them.

A survey conducted by LowestRates.ca found that 91 per cent of Canadians have no idea how legalization will impact their car insurance rates.

Saskatchewanians seemed to be the least unsure, with only 87 per cent claiming they didn’t how hos their auto insurance would be affected. Manitobans were the most unsure, with 96 per cent surveyed saying they didn’t know what the impact would be. Similarly, millennials were the least certain, with 94 per cent unsure, while 89 per cent of boomers said they don’t know.

According to the press release. insurance companies are waiting to see what impact legalization will have on rates. If it leads to more impaired driving and accidents, all drivers will see their rates go up, regardless of whether they use cannabis.

Small business owners are also concerned, with over half ­ 55 per cent —concerned it will impact safety in their workplace.

That number comes from a survey done by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). The organization says in a press release that “small businesses are grappling with a new mess of inconsistent and uneven workplace regulations across the country.”

“Governments had the opportunity to create a clear, modern system for cannabis. Unfortunately, the process of legalization has created more questions than answers for small business owners, on top of everything else, like the federal tax changes and significant changes to labour laws in many provinces,” said Dan Kelly, CFIB’s president.

“Small business owners don’t have lawyers or HR specialists on staff, so they need support to prepare for the new reality of legal cannabis. The hundreds of questions we have received on how to address cannabis-related workplace issues provides clear evidence of the uncertainty and need for proper guidance.”

In the months leading up to legalization, the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce toured the province encouraging companies to set their policies prior to legalization day, providing advice, workshops and tools to help them do so.

Still, 77 per cent of small business owners said the province should develop tools and guidance to assist employers and employees with regard to workplace impairment and recreational cannabis, and 64 per cent said they do not know what their rights and responsibilities are. A further 79 per cent said regulations should be changed to obligate workers to disclose whether they are impaired or have ingested impaired substances.

In its press release, the CFIB said it also has created a suite of tools, including a free webinar, a workplace drug and alcohol policy template and an online course for employers and employees on workplace impairment. The resources, with the exception of the course, can be found at cfib.ca/cannabis.

“It is clear the majority of small business owners have a lot of questions and concerns about the impact legalization of recreational cannabis will have on safety in the workplace,”  Marilyn Braun-Pollon, CFIB’s vice-president, prairie & agri-business said.

“Nearly 3,000 business owners have taken part in one of our webinars to date,” added Kelly. “They want to be prepared and compliant come October 17. Though governments have so far failed to give them the proper tools, CFIB is here to help them and answer their questions.”

Despite fears by many, surveys have shown that few Canadians who don’t already consume cannabis will take up the habit.

A Nanos survey conducted for CTV news found that eight in ten Canadians are either not interested or somewhat not interested in smoking the substance once it’s legal.

That data is consistent with what Statistics Canada found, that 85 per cent of Canadians aren’t currently using Cannabis, and only 5.9 per cent  of those Canadians will try it, while an additional 9.4 per cent said they may try the drug.

Thierman Financial