Drug Referendum 2020

Marijuana, a referendum is coming!!

How are going to vote in next years referendum on marijuana use and availability?

I recently posted a comment on the AgSafe NZ’s Facebook page and the reaction was interesting and the personal abuse just plain ignorant. We at AgSafe do not make the laws about drug use in the workplace and we do not set any THC levels that the specialists deem to be excessive for someone to function properly.

We have all seen news reports where various industries have expressed concern about the effect legalised marijuana use would have in a workplace. The building, transport and forestry industries are akin to the agricultural sector where regular drug testing is carried out and employers are concerned as they struggle to recruit and retain staff because of the high THC levels found when tested.

The presence of tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid (THC-COOH), a major metabolite of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, in urine at concentrations greater than 15.0 ng/mL is a strong indicator that the person has used marijuana. This is the level used by the local drug testing agencies. The metabolite of marijuana (THC-COOH) has a long half-life and can be detected in urine for more than 7 days after a single use. The presence of THC-COOH in urine greater than 100.0 ng/mL indicates relatively recent use, probably within the past 7 days. Levels greater than 500.0 ng/mL suggest chronic and recent use. Chronic use causes accumulation of THC and THC-COOH in adipose (fat) tissue such that it is excreted into the urine for as long as 30 to 60 days from the time chronic use is halted. The highest we have had recorded on a farm was +1,500 which is exceptionally high and that is from long term regular use.

The question is often asked about cannabis use and the THC’s long-term effect on the user. There is no one answer as different people experience different things. The main affect does occur within the 3 to 5 hour period after using the cannabis, but there is longer lasting effects from the THC that accumulates in the body and it is this where the users argue about the unknown effect, often stating they are OK because it was days before the test when they last smoked some “weed”. With residue THC levels there is an observed as being melancholy, lethargic and lacking concentration, there is an ambivalence to the dangers and situations surrounding them, they are often unaware of it because of their ambivalence.

On the farm, as in many other similar employment situations where machinery or animals are part of the business, it is essential that all employees remain vigilant and cognisant of the situations and that is where the retained THC’s become an issue. The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 is specific, clearly stating that each PCBU must provide a safe workplace and that each employee has a responsibility to ensure the safety of themselves and their fellow workers. Even employees can be liable for heavy fines if they are shown to be aiding and abetting unsafe practices.

A drug and alcohol free workplace is a basic requirement for health and safety in any business. Alcohol is also a problem, but it does disappear out of the body more quickly and is not retained in the body fats for weeks with a slow release process.

On one hand the government is wanting to stop smoking of tobacco, while on the other hand, a number of politicians are keen to legalize marijuana use which does include smoking. There is some sort of irony in the proposals.

My personal position has been to decriminalize the use of marijuana. The decriminalization leaves the use of the drug illegal, but allows it to be policed more easily. It would have the same status as a speeding ticket. It is illegal to exceed 100 km per hour, and you can be fined for exceeding the limit. You do not receive a criminal conviction and the police do not have to go through a lengthy arrest and prosecution process. Excessive speed can result in a criminal conviction for dangerous driving, and similarly having an excessive number of joints on hand could be dealt with in a similar manner. Vote to leave it illegal, but allow the authorities to dealt with the problem without excessive administration.

Keep the workplace safe and don’t push the boundaries with drug and alcohol use.

James Findlay
Director – AgSafe NZ Ltd.

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James Findlay

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