Creating a Cannabis Policy for Your Workplace

Jim Boyle

November 22 2019

In recent years, major changes have been made to the legal status of cannabis in Canada. Cannabis was legalized for retail sale and recreational use in 2018, and regulations permitting the sale of cannabis edibles were adopted in October 2019. These regulatory and legislative changes have impacted employers throughout Canada. We set out a few considerations for employers below.  

Know the Legislation on Cannabis 

Laws on minimum age limits and retail models for legally accessing cannabis for recreational use vary from province-to-province -- it’s important that employers understand their provincial legislation regarding cannabis. 

Furthermore, medical cannabis is also legal and regulated by the Cannabis Regulations made pursuant to the federal Cannabis Act. An employer’s duty to accommodate is found in each province’s Human Rights legislation and holds them responsible for accommodating employees with medical cannabis prescriptions.  

Accommodate Users of Medicinal Cannabis 

Human rights legislation imposes the obligation on employers to accommodate employee disabilities to the point of undue hardship. This includes the duty to accommodate individuals whose physical or mental disabilities require treatment with medical cannabis. Reasonable accommodation is fact-specific and will vary with each case and may take the form of making changes to a worker’s duties and responsibilities to accommodate their medical condition.  

When it comes to medicinal cannabis in the workplace, a key takeaway for employers is that employees with medical authorization to use medical cannabis have the same rights as employees using any other medication prescribed by a doctor. 

As an additional consideration, substance addiction is typically considered to be a disability under human rights legislation. Accordingly, if an employee can demonstrate that they suffer from cannabis addiction, the duty to accommodate such addiction may be triggered. Accommodation in such cases may, depending on the specific circumstances of each case, take the form of permitting the employee to take a period of leave to attend a drug rehabilitation program or obtain substance abuse counselling.  

Clearly Outline Policies on Recreational Cannabis 

When establishing a company policy, employers should treat recreational cannabis the same as other legal recreational substances with impairing effects (e.g. alcohol).  

It is also important to consider that every company will face different challenges and levels of acceptance towards cannabis depending on their industry, demographics, and workplace culture.  

For employers with an existing drug and alcohol policy, the policy may prohibit the use or possession of recreational cannabis and other intoxicating substances in the workplace, as well as reporting to work while under the effects of an intoxicating substance.  

If your workplace lacks a drug and alcohol policy, creating a policy and communicating it throughout the company should be an immediate priority.  

Still have questions about creating a cannabis policy for your workplace? 

Whether your company needs to update its drug and alcohol policy to address recreational cannabis or is looking to create a brand-new drug and alcohol policy, Peninsula’s Human Resources advisors will help you create custom-tailored policies for your specific business needs. To receive answers and support for your HR and health & safety needs, call us today at: 1 (833) 247-3652. 

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