I have mixed feelings on the impending legalization of marijuana. On
one hand, the war on drugs has been a failure, and it doesn’t make sense
to prosecute an individual and have that person potentially have a
criminal record for simple possession of a small amount of marijuana. We
now realize that marijuana isn’t that big a deal, and we’ve moved on
from the hysteria of “reefer madness” and the concept of marijuana as a
dangerous gateway to much harder drugs.
of people partake in occasional recreational pot use and aren’t going
to hell in a handbasket. They are productive members of society and
would never even consider trying harder drugs like cocaine or heroin.
The opioid crisis is a far bigger problem, which often starts with
On the other hand, I am concerned with the
message we’re sending to our young people with the legalization of pot.
Perhaps because I’m a father, I worry about the possibility of enabling a
generation of unambitious stoners. No matter what people say, marijuana isn’t completely harmless
and can have a detrimental effect on the development of young people’s
brains (not that I’m saying alcohol is harmless either but it has been
an accepted part of Western culture for thousands of years and trying to
ban it was an abject failure).
I also worry about what U.S.
customs agents might do when Canadians who have consumed legal marijuana
try to cross the border. In spite of the fact that several states have
legalized pot, the federal government in the U.S. still takes a dim view
of cannabis and has barred people from entering the country who
admitted to previous marijuana use.
Already, I seem to be smelling
pot wherever I go. That familiar skunky smell is prevalent even in
totally inappropriate contexts such as when I’m driving down the highway
to work in the morning (a considerable number of people must be smoking
up in their cars on their way to work). It is likely to get even worse
once legalization actually happens.
Because of these misgivings, I
tend to be a supporter of decriminalization of recreational pot use
rather than outright legalization. Removing criminal sanctions and
criminal records might help remove the stigma of a conviction for pot
possession without condoning pot use through the state sanctioned sale
Nevertheless, I am completely aware of powerful arguments against
this view such as the fact that decriminalization would do nothing to
limit use, enforce minimum age requirements, create safety standards or
remove organized crime from the production, sale and distribution of
cannabis. I also understand how the sale of pot will result in increased
revenue for governments.
The impact on employers
it or not, marijuana legalization is coming soon and Canadian employers
will need to be able to deal with this issue proactively. Policies and
practices will need to be updated and communications will likely need to
be sent out to employees in advance of legalization.
marijuana use is analogous to the consumption of alcohol. However,
because of the forthcoming legalization of pot and the fact that
marijuana is generally consumed by smoking it, many people seem to treat
it more like smoking a cigarette. Yet, much like alcohol, it is
important to remember that cannabis can cause intoxication (so I’m told
Therefore, employees cannot assume they can smoke a joint
on a smoke break like they would smoke a cigarette. Not only are there
problems with intoxication (particularly in safety-sensitive
environments) but coming back from a break reeking of marijuana smoke is
I am aware of a situation in another
organization where an individual’s supervisor condones that person
smoking up while on duty. The scary thing is this employee is required
to drive as part of their duties. No employer should ever condone
driving while high.
Employers don’t have to allow employees to
show up for work drunk, so they shouldn’t have to allow them to show up
stoned either. Many employers have policies with zero tolerance for
drugs or alcohol and many even ban alcohol outright from the premises.
there is nothing wrong with banning the use or possession of cannabis
on company property or while on duty, or showing up to work intoxicated.
I will continue this theme next week, including a discussion of medical
marijuana in the workplace.