Cannabis policy: implications for volunteers, “expectations” for councillors

By Scott Costen

Region of Queens Municipality (RQM) council has adopted a new policy governing employees’ use of cannabis and alcohol.

The policy expressly forbids the use of cannabis, alcohol and “certain medications” on the job and imposes strict limitations on their use before work. Employees who operate equipment or vehicles, or who work in plant or facility operations, are prohibited from consuming cannabis 24 hours before a shift. All other employees are forbidden from using cannabis 12 hours before work.

The policy, approved by a 7-1 vote at this morning’s council meeting, also requires employees to abstain from alcohol eight hours prior to the performance of any municipal duty.

While aimed primarily at employees, the policy also extends to “operations controlled by” RQM. That means volunteers and contract workers are subject to it while engaged in sanctioned activities on municipal property or involving RQM equipment.

Remarking on the widespread availability and various uses of cannabis, Coun. Brian Fralic questioned how effectively the policy could be enforced. “So the 12 hours leading up to (work) is enforceable?” he asked. CAO Chris McNeill, who proposed the policy, said “it’s as enforceable as other regulations.”

Fralic, the only council member who voted against the policy, told the Observer later: “I feel that this policy is not addressing the ease with which cannabis can be purchased and that people are currently using cannabis to address medical issues without a doctor involved.”

While the policy explicitly applies to all manner of employees — “full-time, part-time, casual, temporary, probationary, contract …” — it does not mention elected council members.

Mayor David Dagley, who said he’s never used cannabis himself, indicated there is an “expectation” councillors will adhere to the policy. “If someone came to council under the influence of cannabis, then it’s something we would have to deal with,” he told reporters.

RQM does not currently drug-test employees, Dagley said, and it is “very unlikely” the municipality would do so in the future.