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The Legalization of Recreational Marijuana: Employers, Are You Prepared?
Depending on who you ask, there are approximately 195 countries on this blue (and green) planet of ours. And of the 195 (+/-) countries, Canada has become just the second country in the world—and the first G7 country— to legalize recreational cannabis on a federal basis. Uruguay was first. With this statistic, one could argue that Canada is a trailblazer for advocates of the recreational legalization movement.
While medical marijuana has been legal in Canada since the early 2000s, the legalization of recreational cannabis promises to present an abundance of unique issues for law enforcement, insurers, and municipalities alike— the type of Issues that the other 193 (+/-) countries have not had to deal with, yet.
As society attempts to grapple with issues relating to the legalization of recreational cannabis during these early (and uncertain) days of legalization, as an employer you may be asking yourself whether this has the potential to adversely impact your employees, contractors, customers and clients. How will legalization of recreational marijuana impact your business as a whole?
Medical marijuana been a reality for employers since the Court of Appeal for Ontario determined that the total prohibition on cannabis was unconstitutional. With the legalization of medical marijuana, employers had no choice but to act. Workplace drug and alcohol policies were updated and safety policies were reviewed and revised. To thwart potential human rights complaints, employers took steps to make accommodations for employees who required marijuana for medical reasons.
Almost 18 years have passed since the legalization of medical marijuana in Canada. Businesses in Brant County continue to thrive and grow. Employers have adjusted well. But the legalization of recreational marijuana will present unique issues for today’s employers. While the Cannabis Act, 2017, S.O. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 1, prohibits the recreational use of cannabis in the “workplace”, the lasting effects of cannabis which is consumed away from the workplace (prior to work or during a break while away from the workplace) will inevitably cause issues in the workplace. Spotting these issues ahead of time and promptly and properly addressing these issues after they have occurred will be crucial for employers hoping to avoid expensive and time consuming legal battles.
As a first step, employers should consider updating and circulating their drug and alcohol policies (DA policies). This may include updating or implementing testing practices. A sound, updated DA policy will provide certainty to employers and employees if there is ever an incident which warrants testing or requires disciplinary action. From an employer’s perspective, not being properly prepared in this regard could result in human rights complaints, privacy complains and complaints of workplace harassment. What is your plan if you suspect that an employee is under the influence of cannabis in the workplace? How can you be sure? What are your next steps? What workplace policies can you put in place to deter employees from attending work while under the influence? How can you protect your employees, customers and business as a whole? What are your rights as an employer?
If the legalization of recreational cannabis has you asking these questions and you want answers, I encourage you to contact one of the lawyers in Waterous Holden’s employment law group. We are here to help.
Communications on this website are intended for information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice or an opinion on any issue. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. The lawyers of Waterous Holden Amey Hitchon LLP would be pleased to provide additional details or advice about specific situations.