Canadian Cannabis Laws: Emphasizing the Importance of Employees Not Getting High At or Before Work

construction worker on elevated platform

Are your employees getting high?

If they’re doing so on their own time, in the comfort & safety of their homes or elsewhere, it could be perfectly fine and legal (assuming we’re talking about marijuana).

However employees being under the influence at work, or getting high right before work, is a definite no-no when it comes to safe workplaces. For any organization determined to build and maintain safe workplaces, education and training are vital for safety and legality.

Cannabis Legalization in Canada

worker in safety vest smoking marijuana on the jobSince October, 2018, recreational cannabis use has been legal in Canada. The specific implementation of the law can vary by province, but for Canadian adults who are either 18 or 19 years of age, again, depending on the province, can legally purchase, possess and consume cannabis.

However, the legalization of recreational marijuana comes with certain limits and controls. In addition to the age requirements for purchase, there are controls on where smoking is permitted, be that tobacco or pot. When it comes to operating a motor vehicle or boat, the use of cannabis is not permitted. Nor is it permitted at work!

Marijuana and Existing Workplace Rules & Regulations

With the passage of the legalization law, many understand that the controls on the use of cannabis are similar to those existing for smoking in public and those related to alcohol consumption.  When it comes to the workplace, the controls should be expected to be similar. While it would seem to be an obvious requirement to avoid marijuana consumption while on the job, it is important to remind employees of the specifics of the law when it comes to the workplace.

Consuming recreational cannabis in the workplace was illegal before October 2018 and continues to be illegal despite legalization. This is an important reminder to weave into the overall health and safety communication for the workplace.

Workplace Safety Training around Pot & Drug use

construction workers laughing at workThe importance of avoiding cannabis use before or on the job should be covered in your health and safety training programs, along with the policies your business already has in place. The policies and training programs should emphasize workplace safety and now emphasizing the effects of marijuana use must be included.

While legal for recreational purposes, marijuana is still considered a potentially addictive substance. Many Canadian companies offer counseling for substance abuse to include drugs (legal or otherwise) and alcohol. The necessary cannabis information can be provided through the counseling programs already in place.

While pot is now legal, the potential for workplace safety incidents has not changed. The only significant change is that with legalization comes the increased availability and convenience of purchasing marijuana, and therefore the increased need in workplace communication and training.

Workplace Drug Testing

men carrying equipment at work siteHealth and safety policy communication must inform employees that while there has been a change in the law, emphasizing that employees cannot come to work while impaired by the use of marijuana (much the same as alcohol) and can potentially pose safety risks to others.

If your workplace has alcohol and drug testing in place, your procedures and policies may need to be updated to ensure compliance and that employees need to fully understand any testing requirements.

Medical Marijuana Use

The policies around medical use of cannabis are different to an extent, since Canadian employers are required to accommodate workers with a prescription for medical marijuana use, just as would be required for any other disabled employee with a medical drug prescription. However, safety polices remain in effect.

Employees coming to work while cannabis impaired, even when medically prescribed is not permitted, since the impairment can potentially pose safety risks to others. It is important that employers clearly understand the polices and procedures for medical cannabis use on the job.

Safety Training & Consulting Leaders in Ottawa & Across Ontario

Advanced Consulting & Training are workplace safety leaders across much of Ontario. We can help with your organization’s safety plan, whether you’re looking to update your policies or better train your staff.

Contact us today to find out what ACT can do for you.

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