What You Need to Know about Marijuana Legalization and the Workplace

cannibis plant growing out of a ceramic teapot placed on a workdesk

Blog update: On June 19th, 2018, the Senate passed Bill C-45, and it now awaits Royal Assent. This comes with a provisional buffer period of 8 to 12 weeks to give provinces time to prepare for sale of recreational marijuana.

Government of Canada plans to legalize recreational marijuana across the country by the Fall of 2018, and employers are wondering how this will impact the workplace.

Some companies already have policies in place to address concerns about the use of medicinal marijuana; however, most employers do not believe their existing policies adequately cover the potential issues that may arise with the legalization of recreational marijuana.


Many employers have apprehensions about how legalization will impact the workplace. The main concerns include:

  • Operating Motor Vehicles: Unlike alcohol, there are no guidelines for blood THC limit while driving, and there is no consensus on what this limit should be.
  • Decreased Work Performance: Observable effects of marijuana use include lack of concentration, impaired learning and memory, changes to thought formation and expression, and drowsiness—none of which are good for productivity.
  • Disciplinary Procedures: In the past, the presence of THC on a drug test would be sufficient grounds for disciplinary action for violation of the workplace drug policy. Now, employers must prove impairment, which is a grey area because no guidelines have been set.
  • Reduced Attendance: Many employers worry that the legalization of recreational marijuana will negatively impact employees’ attendance.


Marijuana Legalization 2

Here are two quick and easy health and wellness policies that you can update now based on what we already know.

  • Smoking Policy: With or without a prescription for cannabis, an employee is not entitled to smoke in the workplace. Smoke-free laws apply to smoking marijuana in the same way they do to smoking regular cigarettes. Employers should update any smoking policies to make note of this.
  • Scent Policy: Scent-related complaints about employees who use cannabis may arise. Employers should examine their current scent policies to ensure these complaints are covered for cannabis that is smoked or applied topically.

Although employers have a duty to accommodate medicinal marijuana use, there must be rules in place. Having clear policies at the outset will help curb any workplace problems that arise from the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Stay tuned to learn strategies for reporting possible impairment and how to manage disciplinary procedures and attendance!

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