skip to content

Marijuana in the Workplace

26 Mar 2018

The Cannabis Act (The Act) will result in legalization of marijuana throughout Ontario. What does this mean for the workplace? Well, right now there are still more questions than answers.

Employers are unsure about how they can adjust their current workplace policies to address issues that will arise with the legalization of marijuana. 

The Act, once passed by the federal government, (expected summer of 2018) will create a legal framework to allow for the sale, possession and usage of cannabis in Canada. Enforcement around the restrictions will be left up to each Province, and the Ontario Government has taken proactive steps to ensure that there are strict controls and preventive measures around possession, sale and usage of cannabis by making cannabis illegal for anyone under 19; similar to the rules around tobacco and alcohol.

Similarly, they have also addressed rules on cannabis in the workplace by banning recreational usage there as well as the medical usage of cannabis (smoking/vaping) in enclosed environments at the workplace.

But as one of our members mentioned to us, this does not clearly address some of the other concerns such as the lingering smell of cannabis on an employee, decreased work performance due to usage in the prior 24-hour period and compromised workplace safety because of lingering effects. Employees cannot show up to the workplace under the influence. Current rules around professional behaviour at the workplace will apply even after cannabis has been legalized. And as the Province has made it very clear, employees cannot use recreational cannabis while at work.

So how should employers prepare for all of this? A number of areas still need to be covered, including:

1.       Understanding what cannabis is and how to identify the substance 

2.       The effects of marijuana and how to identify someone under its influence

3.       The effects on someone under its influence for prolonged periods 

4.        The amount of accommodation required for medicinal use

5.     Creating policies and procedures for workplaces in advance of the legalized date

All employers have strict zero tolerance policies around intoxication at the workplace. Usage of recreational marijuana should be treated no differently. A zero tolerance policy becomes tricky when it comes to medicinal usage but could potentially become doable if the employer can demonstrate that sobriety is necessary in the workplace because of safety issues relating to the operation of heavy machinery or safe-sensitive workplaces.  

There are a multitude of questions surrounding the legalization of marijuana and what that means for employers and the workplace environment. We will provide details as more information becomes available.