Cannabis and Employment Law

On behalf of Osuji & Smith posted in Employment and Labour Law on Wednesday, September 5, 2018.

As most Canadians know by now, as of October 17, 2018, cannabis will be legalized across the country. The question on most employers’ minds is “how will this affect my workplace”? 

Because of the taboo that has surrounded the use of cannabis for the last half a decade, many employers, and people all around, are cautious about the new cannabis laws. However, the legalization of cannabis and its protection in the workplace takes many similar steps as the protection from alcohol in the workplace. 

Both, for example, are a potential cause for substance abuse. This means that employers must be conscious of the possibilities for accommodating cannabis addiction in the same way that they are already providing accommodations for alcohol addiction. Therefore, the same steps, programs and support available for alcohol addiction should be provided to cannabis addicts.

So, how can employers take preventative safeguards against abuse and how can employees continue to feel safe in their workplaces? Again, it requires the same protections as one would apply against alcohol abuse:

  1. Policies: It is all about revising the policies that are in place. Most employers could not have anticipated the legalization of cannabis; thus, many workplace policies regarding substance abuse at the workplace need revise their current policies to include cannabis.
  1. Education: Education is also important. Employers need to educate employees on the possible workplace hazards that come with using cannabis at work. This could mean more extensive training, safety hazards and whatnot put into place in order to effectively communicate to employees on how the workplace views the use of cannabis on the job.
  1. Testing: Currently, testing in the workplace for drugs and alcohol is limited to safety sensitive workplaces. Some employers may think this is unfair but if you or your workplace has not been testing for alcohol previously, is there really a difference now that cannabis is becoming legalized? Do not let the taboo surrounding cannabis affect your judgement. So long as your policies and education are airtight, your workplace should be able to continue functioning.

Employers and employees must keep in mind their rights and responsibilities in the workplace regarding the new cannabis legalization. As long as they continue to be mindful of such, the workplace and everyone within can work continue to work safely, efficiently and cohesively. 

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