“We hired an immigration firm to provide us the risks
around crossing the border right now. It’s anecdotal, but we’re hearing
about people getting lifetime bans, being questioned about cannabis use
or about being an investor in cannabis. We’ve been hearing more and
more stories recently,” he says.
Starseed Medicinal is a
subsidiary of Starseed Holdings Inc., a licensed producer of medical
cannabis. In May of this year, Starseed was the first medical cannabis
company to form a partnership with a large private health benefit plan,
announcing it had launched its medical cannabis supply and service model
with Laborers’ International Union of North America, Canada’s largest
construction union with 120,000 members.
The issue for cannabis
company employees and others involved in the industry is that if U.S.
Customs suspects someone may be involved in the cannabis industry they
consider that person a trafficker.
“Essentially, if you get a
lifetime ban, you can apply for a waiver that is good from between six
months and five years, but that lifetime ban you have for life and you
have to get that waiver every time you go to the States,” says
Alexander. “It’s sort of crazy when you’re talking about medical
cannabis and people with prescriptions and medical documents from
doctors being subjected to a lifetime ban because they are taking
Alexander says he needs to go to the U.S. for business
“all the time,” but the current climate has caused him and his
colleagues to decline invitations to the U.S.
“We’re turning down
invitations to conferences or meetings because the risks are real. We
are trying to avoid the States to the extent possible,” he says, noting
that it affects personal travel, too — a desired family trip to Disney
World is off the consideration list for a few years.
immigration firm Green and Spiegel LLP recently held a seminar for
people in the industry saying essentially “watch out.”
role at Starseed encompasses not only that of managing legal matters
but he is also taking a lead role in educating its members through
seminars and clinics to help educate union members on developing
workplace polices around medical cannabis use.
“A lot of my job is
involved in helping to prepare the employee communications,” he says.
“It’s quite different from your typical general counsel role.”
Starseed recently released a paper called “Medical Cannabis in the Workplace.”
think there is a lot of misinformation out there, which is the reason
we put together the brochure,” says Alexander. “We want people to be
better educated. Some employers are more accepting and it’s [medical
cannabis] hopefully going to get some employees off opioids or using
cannabis in lieu of opioids.”
He says employers are starting to
understand there is a difference between the different forms of cannabis
such as high-CBD cannabis and high-THC cannabis.
have any psychoactive components, so it’s a much safer pain medication
than a lot of pain medications out there. Information like that is
really part of the education component of helping employers who are
being a little more receptive to the concept of having polices in place
for cannabis,” he says.
Alexander says all employers should have a
workplace policy in place where employees feel comfortable saying: “I
have a medical condition and I have been prescribed this cannabis.”
is a level of confidentiality involved and the employee should know
they can speak to HR or whoever is involved, on a confidential basis, on
the fact these are the medications they are on,” he says.
working with a major construction union such as LiUNA, Alexander says,
the idea was to find a better, safer way to treat chronic pain to a
committed customer base particularly vulnerable to chronic pain and
correspondently to opioid use.
“In terms of dealing with health
and safety issues, we’re starting with the hardest segment of society
and developing policies for them,” he says.
“In my mind, it goes
back to the education — you want to make sure all employees are aware of
cannabis in the workplace and how it works and to set expectations and
reduce risks — they really understand what does it mean if I have a
disability, who do I tell on a confidential basis and how do I figure
out how they are going to accommodate,” says Alexander.
people become educated about medical cannabis use in the workplace, they
seem much more open and receptive to it, says Alexander.
seeing people designing these policies who are realizing ‘Wait, there is
cannabis that won’t get you high?’ People didn’t even know that at the
beginning. The conversation has changed and there is an understanding
that it’s medicine that can help people with chronic pain.”
is the solo legal officer at Starseed and he has a compliance and
regulatory team that knows how to operate in what is a heavily regulated
He started his legal career at Miller Thomson LLP
in the commercial real estate group, where he practised for
four-and-a-half years before going to Shoppers Drug Mart in 2014, where
he had the opportunity to work on the cannabis file for the mega
retailer. He joined Starseed in April of this year.
me for the job at Starseed, balancing employer and employee needs with
the needs of the corporate entity as well. It’s a difficult balance, but
it keeps me on my toes and I absolutely love my job,” he says. “It’s
cutting edge and so interesting — there are new issues every day you
wouldn’t otherwise have to deal with elsewhere.”
Starseed has to
be aware of the cannabis legislation in each province as well as the
federal legislation. Not only is the Cannabis Act the overarching
legislation, but, sometimes, it brings in the U.S. Federal Drug
Administration and at times he has to consult the Controlled Drugs and
“We’re bouncing around a lot and we have to look
at literally everything under the sun. Even a poster in a store is a
very difficult question in which you have to look at many pieces of