Drug policy: smoking on the job

If you smoke marijuana in a public place the fine is $250,000 and imprisonment for five years.
If you smoke marijuana in a public place the fine is $250,000 and imprisonment for five years. -

Two or three men are seen by other workers in the company smoking on the job. Well, not exactly on the job…they are taking a break, sitting on the ground behind the building they work in. It is a normally scheduled break.

And someone reports them to security.

So what’s the problem? They are not fighting on the company premises.

They are not blocking the passage; people are passing all the time.

They are not causing a fire hazard.

They are not stopping other people from working.

Or are they?

And what exactly is it they are smoking?

The familiar smell of marijuana, sweet and fairly pungent, sort of like thyme or lime or lemongrass burning, is unmistakable. There is no way you can miss it, even if you pass by accidentally or happen to be around the corner.

Outside. On company premises.

Do not try to hide it, because it is almost impossible to do so. It is caused by the chemical terpenes, a brother who was into chemistry in college told me, and can cling for hours to your clothes, as well as in your breath, as many young people now in prison have learned. In your blood and hair it can, and does, last for days.

In 2019 the police issued a notice announcing that possession of up to 30 grammes was now legal and you could smoke it at home, which is where it is advised you use it. If you are caught with more than 30 grammes in your possession you can be fined $50,000, or, if you have 60-100 grammes, $75,000.

But if you smoke or have it in or near a school or in a public place the fine is $250,000 and imprisonment for five years.
And if you smoke marijuana at work, property where your employer is responsible, they will have to “take the bounce.” Every time. It can add up.

Since, like many other people, I thought the decriminalisation of marijuana in 2019 and the police notice mentioned above meant it was legal, I checked the Dangerous Drugs Act.

It says someone will be considered guilty of an offence if smoking on work “property” and that includes a person who is the owner of the property or “is in custody or control” of the property or who “has any obligation in relation to that property” (Section 29A).

The latest amendment includes in the definition of who is responsible for that property (and there is a long list of them) someone who knows it was done “with his consent or connivance” or it is done due to their “wilful neglect” or someone who is “a director, manager or similar officer” of the place, even if they were not aware that it was going on at the time.

Section 29B makes it clear that this liability extends to even one offence.

Now that he has a degree in medicine, I asked my brother how marijuana affects people and whether it could lead to mental illness. There are many cases recently of mental dysfunction reported as work-related illnesses, arising from the pandemic and from substances used to relieve the stress resulting from effects of the lockdowns. Employers are now being urged to develop policies relating to mental illness among staff.

He had been studying the effects on mental health of marijuana, which is now legal in several jurisdictions where he had been working recently. Some of the effects of marijuana which interfered with work life, he said, were:

Fast heartbeat

Lowering blood pressure

Muscle relaxation

Bloodshot eyes

Sluggish digestion



Which is why using it near machinery is dangerous. Even where usage is legal (and it is not legal in TT, just decriminalised), like alcohol it can land you in jail if used in public, while driving, piloting a plane, or while responsible for the care of children or the disabled.

If you are not allowed to drink on the job, he said, you also cannot use it or any other psychotropic drug which can affect your brain and thence your behaviour.

It does not normally lead to aggression, as alcohol often does (hence domestic violence, and fighting on the job), but slows people down, leads to inaccuracy in hand and fine finger-use of machines, weights and measurements, and if used over a long period can lead to hallucinations and paranoid thinking that you are being persecuted by a manager or fellow workers, which can provoke heavy users to violence.

When I think of advice about work policies being advocated for post-pandemic mental illness, including drug use, I remember with a kind of shudder one of my professional contacts 33 years ago who was a heavy marijuana user. He was an industrial relations manager in a manufacturing company, and admittedly was under a lot of stress.

He awoke one night convinced that there was a huge macajuel snake in his bed, reached under his bed for the cutlass he kept there, and chopped its head off.

In the morning he was arrested by the police for chopping his wife’s head off during the night.

Dangerous drugs are called dangerous for a reason.


"Drug policy: smoking on the job"

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