The Legalization of Cannabis and Its Potential Impact on The Workplace

Canada’s lawmakers have made a historic decision to legalize the use of cannabis.

Canadians have been allowed to use the drug medicinally since 2001, but they will soon be able to consume it recreationally.

Bill C-45, better known as the Cannabis Act, was approved by the Senate on Tuesday, June 19, 2018, and is set to take effect on Oct. 17, 2018.

Here’s what you need to know now about the Act, and how to prepare your employees for the big changes that are coming.

 Canada’s Cannabis Legislation

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau via Twitter says “it’s been too easy” for Canada’s children and teens to get their hands on marijuana, and “for criminals to reap the profits.”

“That all changes” with the Cannabis Act, he adds.

Marijuana legalization in Canada has been ongoing since the federal government launched a task force on legalization and regulation two years ago. After extensive consultation with Canadians, provincial and territorial governments and Indigenous communities, the task force presented recommendations that served as the foundation for the government’s legislative work.

Introduced in April 2017, The Cannabis Act is as a measure intended to keep cannabis out of the hands of underage persons and non-government sellers.

Once in effect, the Act will allow adults 18 or 19 years of age—depending on the province or territory—to legally possess 30 grams of marijuana, and grow up to four home-grown plants per residence.

It is important to remember that until Oct. 17, marijuana is still considered illegal unless it is prescribed medically.

Strict penalties will still be imposed for any criminal activity involving cannabis, including selling it to a minor or engaging underage people in cannabis-related offences.

The government says drug screening devices are currently being evaluated to meet Canadian standards to provide law enforcement with an additional tool to detect drug-impaired driving should the second bill, Bill C-46, be passed by Parliament. Bill C-46 is meant to act as a companion to Bill C-45, imposing additional penalties for drug-impaired driving offences.

During the transition period, the Federal Government will work with communities across the country, the regulated cannabis industry and law enforcement to prepare for the implementation of the new legal framework and regulation for cannabis.

In the coming days, Health Canada will publish final regulations providing Canadians and stakeholders with the information they need to be prepared for marijuana legalization and regulation.

The federal government will also broaden its public education activities, helping Canadians understand the new legal framework for cannabis, including what will be legal and when, and to remind Canadians that it remains illegal to take cannabis across Canada’s international borders.

What Does Legalization of Cannabis Mean For Employers?

In a new report by the Conference Board of Canada, titled Blazing the Trail: What the Legalization of Cannabis Means for Canadian Employers, it’s reported that more than 52 per cent of Canadian organizations are either concerned or very concerned about the effect the Cannabis Act will have on the workplace.

Topping the list of concerns for employers are impairment, workplace safety, intoxication and increased use of cannabis both inside and outside the workplace.

Employers also shared their concerns over testing for impairment, managing accommodation needs, costs of covering medical cannabis and other financial impacts on their businesses and issues related to productivity and employee performance.

The report advises employers to consider:

  • Determining how stringent your workplace should be regarding alcohol and drug testing and potential discipline
  • for impairment on the job. 
  • Providing resources and supports for workers that may be suffering from problematic cannabis use and addiction,
  • including employee assistance programs and access to confidential treatment. 
  • Determining whether to allow limited consumption of the substance during work-related social or networking events.    
  • Educating employees and managers on how to detect and manage problematic use, dependence and potential cannabis impairment. 

Have questions about Bill C-45 including the rights of employers and employees, or other workplace legislation? Don’t hesitate to contact one of the experts at Employment Professionals Canada today!