Workplace safety concerns expressed at N.B. cannabis committee hearing
The Saint John business community spoke out about the legalization of marijuana at a public hearing on Tuesday.
The New Brunswick government's Select Committee on Cannabis is conducting hearings around the province in advance of setting regulations governing the sale of marijuana.
The Select Committee on Cannabis, composed of eight MLAs, was informed ofconflicting opinions at the hearing. Among the presenters Tuesday was industrial giant J.D. Irving.
Chris Macdonald, J.D. Irving’s director of government relations,expressed concerns about workplace safety when marijuana is legalized next year.
“It has now stepped up to a point where the increased usage is really a concern,” says Macdonald. “The recreational era will likely increase much more than the medical side.”
The company is one of the region’s largest industrial firms employing thousands of people in every sector of the Maritime economy.
MacDonald says roadside testing,similar to blood alcohol testing,is neededto address safety concerns.
"I think what we need is comprehensive drug and alcohol testing program, regulatory framework, no different than what the United States has had since 1995,” he says.
Ross Wetmore,New Brunswick PC MLA, says no matter employers from many different industries share concerns.
"Whether its forestry, trucking, transportation, they're very concerned that their employees certainly aren't breaking the law,” says Wetmore.
The chair of the Select Committee on Cannabis, Benoit Bourque,declined to comment on where he falls on the issue, saying thehearings are for the general public to offer opinions.
"But I can say as a New Brunswicker, yes of course, workplace safety is a primary concern for the government of New Brunswick and we've been listening very closely to what they were saying,” says Bourque.
J.D. Irving has examined other jurisdictions where pot has been legalized, like Colorado where there are more medical marijuana facilities than pharmacies and thestate has been seeing a troubling trend on the road.
"It's big business down there and what we are seeing in some of the stats that are happening as a result of that increased prevalence and increase usage and that's really the concern,” says MacDonald.
The committee has until September 1 to submit a report to the government. The report will shape the legalization of marijuana on July 1, 2018.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mary Cranston.