HR Advice: Creating a Cannabis Policy for Your Workplace

  • HR Policies
HR Advice: Creating a Cannabis Policy for Your Workplace
Olivia Cicchini

Olivia Cicchini, Employment Law Expert

(Last updated )

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.

As cannabis legalization continues to sweep across Canada, many employers are grappling with how to create policies that ensure the safety of their employees while still respecting their rights.

A cannabis policy for your workplace is essential in setting clear expectations and guidelines around the use of this substance in your workplace. In this article, we’ll explore some key considerations for creating a cannabis policy that works for your organization.

Know the cannabis laws in your province

Laws on minimum age limits and retail models for legally accessing cannabis for recreational use vary from province to province, so it’s important to understand the provincial legislation regarding cannabis in your jurisdiction.

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, to the point of undue hardship.

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 generally 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.

Create a policy 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.

Determine the scope of the policy

Your cannabis policy should outline whether or not cannabis use is allowed on company property, during work hours, or during breaks. You may also want to specify if there are any exceptions for medical cannabis use. It’s important to be clear and specific about what is and isn’t allowed, as well as the potential consequences of violating the policy.

Consider safety concerns

Employers have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their employees while at work. Impaired employees can be a hazard to themselves and others, particularly in safety-sensitive positions such as operating heavy machinery or driving. Additionally, you should work with employee representatives to develop, implement, and evaluate a hazard prevention program that includes policies on substance use and impairment.

Educate your employees

It’s important to educate your employees on the effects of cannabis and how it can impact their performance and safety on the job. This includes not only the risks of impairment but also the potential long-term effects of cannabis use. Educating your employees can help to reduce the stigma associated with discussing cannabis use in the workplace and can promote a more open and supportive work environment.

Provide support for employees struggling with addiction

Addiction is a disease, and employees struggling with addiction should be treated with compassion and understanding. Your policy should outline the resources available to employees who may be struggling with addiction, such as employee assistance programs or referrals to treatment centers.

Have questions about creating a cannabis policy for your workplace?

Creating a cannabis policy for your workplace is essential in setting clear expectations and guidelines around the use of this substance in your workplace. If you need help creating a drug and alcohol policy to address recreational cannabis, 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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