Cannabis in the Workplace: Federal Taskforce Report and Tips for Employers

At the end of last year the Government of Canada’s “Task Force on Cannabis Legalization & Regulation” released it’s highly anticipated “A Framework For The Legalization & Regulation of Cannabis” otherwise known as the “Framework Report.”

And while the impact of cannabis in the workplace remains hazy for employers, the Framework Report does include recommendations key areas such as:

  • establish and provide medical access;
  • enforcement of public protection and safety;
  • establishment a safe and accountable supply chain; and
  • minimization of harm of use.

The Framework Report further details roughly eighty separate recommendations for each of the points above, ranging from age restrictions to labeling requirements, to the potential for criminal offences. The implementation of which are not expected to occur before 2018 at the earliest.

What This Means for Employers

Considering the lengthy timeframe for legislation implementation, it’s worth noting that changes won’t be happening anytime soon. Employers will also want to be aware that just as with alcohol usage, legalization of recreational marijuana usages won’t give employees the right to use cannabis in the workplace whenever they feel like it. Employees who do so would still be open to disciplinary actions should the use of recreational marijuana have a negative impact on their overall job performance. And current smoking restrictions applied to tobacco would also apply to smoking marijuana.

Review Current Policies

Current and existing workplace policies and procedures will need to be reviewed by employers, and in many cases amended to reflect cannabis usage once legislation is put into effect. One such example would be the elimination of any references to using cannabis as an illegal activity. But, although no longer an illegal act, employers would have the right to restrict usage or create other restrictive parameters surrounding the use of cannabis, just as they would surrounding the ingestion of alcohol on the job.

Drug Testing Policies & Procedures

Once the new legislation is put into effect, a change to current drug testing policies would be needed where the use of such mood altering chemical could pose a threat or risk in dangerous workplaces, or where the use of such substances could produce enhanced safety risks.

Medical Cannabis

While recreational cannabis remains a prohibitive action, use and consumption under the advisement and care of a physician are legal. The resulting treatment of an employee who uses cannabis in a medical capacity must be in accordance with existing workplace policies and procedures surrounding the use of other prescription medications while at work or otherwise ‘on the job.’

Until Legalization

Until such date that the federal government implements the legislation thereby legalizing and regulating marijuana production and use, the current criminal code – and its criminal restrictions – remain intact.

But with upcoming changes in the wind, employers will be wise to begin the process of reviewing their existing policies and making preparations for their amendment.

Are you an Ontario employer in need of staffing and HR guidance? Contact the Ontario staffing experts at Employment Professionals Canada to learn more. Get in touch with us today.