The date that recreational marijuana becomes legal in Canada — July
1, 2018 — may have once seemed far away, but guess what? It’s coming
fast. We are now into 2018 and, as of this writing, it’s less than six
months away. Is your organization ready for the potential impact of
employees having easy access to the drug? If it’s like most
organizations — and regulators, for that matter — probably not. There’s
still a lot that needs to be figured out.
marijuana doesn’t just mean making the drug easy to get anywhere. It’s
still going to be heavily regulated. And employers need to figure out
their own policies with regards to employees who consume marijuana.
still need to figure out things like enforcement, taxation, limiting
access by young people retail infrastructure, where it can be sold,
public consumption, and forms in which it can be provided. So nobody
really knows yet how easy it will be to get and how prevalent it will
Once the legislation comes into force, employees who have marijuana
at work or have consumed it before work may have to be treated
differently in company policies just because it’s not something illegal
anymore and therefore should be considered less serious misconduct. It’s
probably easiest to treat it similar to consumption and possession of
other intoxicating but legal substances such as alcohol or prescription
However, it is still an intoxicating substance, and most
employers don’t want employees carrying it or consuming it at work, or
being impaired by it — particularly at safety-sensitive workplaces. So
even though it will be legal, employers will still be within their
rights to ban it from the workplace, as most do with alcohol. Policies
with progressive discipline and opportunities for employees with
addiction issues should be the norm.
Employers will have to keep
in mind their obligations under occupational health and safety
legislation to maintain a safe workplace. What effect on workplace
safety will there be when marijuana is readily available to any adult
and the likelihood of impairment increases? Will drug testing become
more necessary in safety-sensitive workplaces? What are the privacy
implications of this?
For example, after a lengthy battle with its
union over implementing drug and alcohol testing, the Toronto Transit
Commission began testing its employees in 2017 and immediately there
were several positive tests for alcohol and drugs. What will be the
result when marijuana is legal and more readily available?
from the O'Brien Institute for Public Health at the University of
Calgary recently told the Canadian Press that they recommend marijuana
legalization in Canada be a 10-year project, given the amount of things
that need to be worked out. However, employers don’t have nearly that
long — they need to be ready in a few months for employees to have
easier access to an intoxicating drug that could affect the safety and
productivity of their workplaces.