Cannabis in the Workplace

October 11, 2018 | Articles

Effective October 17, 2018, things will be changing in Ontario regarding cannabis, but what does that look like and how does it affect things in the workplace?

First of all, this new law deals with recreational cannabis. Medical cannabis has been in place for some time and has different rules (outlined below).

Key Facts on Recreational Marijuana – Effective October 17, 2018

  • Individuals will need to be 19 or older to buy, use or possess it.
  • Smoking and vaping cannabis can be done in private residences and many outdoor public spaces like parks or on sidewalks. There are also a number of specific places such as boats, testing facilities and controlled areas, but these places have restrictions upon them.
  • Most indoor spaces are off-limits including schools (including playgrounds), child care centres hospitals and other care facilities, as well as common areas (such as in condos, apartments) and enclosed public spaces.
  • It is also not permitted in restaurants or on bar patios and publicly-owned sports fields or community recreation facilities.

The law will also consider restrictions that may be in place from municipal bylaws, lease agreements or workplace policies.

  • It is illegal to drive while using cannabis and those deemed to be impaired from using cannabis while driving a motor vehicle will be subject to serious penalties. The same applies to alcohol use or other drugs that can cause impairment.

Premier Doug Ford recently announced that people will be able to use recreational marijuana “anywhere,” however, that is counter to the legislation, which is quite specific. If, and until the legislation changes, we recommend following the legislative guidelines.

In the Workplace

Consuming recreational cannabis in the workplace will continue to be illegal even after this legislation has passed. It should be treated the same as being impaired at work from alcohol or other drugs.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), employers have an obligation to “address workplace hazards.”  In this, employers will want to ensure that they continue to maintain a safe workplace and follow the same practices and policies to address issues with any employee that is impaired at work, whether that is from alcohol, drugs or marijuana. Conversely, employees have a duty to perform their work safely and report any hazards to their supervisor or employer.

The use of medical marijuana has been in place for some time and the same guidelines under the OHSA still apply. Even if an employee has a requirement to use medical marijuana, they cannot be impaired at the workplace if that may endanger themselves or that of their coworkers. It is important to be aware that not all medical marijuana will cause a person to be impaired. Dealing with a medical marijuana issue that causes impairment could also trigger a requirement for accommodation under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Details of the legislation for medical marijuana can be found under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulation, which is part of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Your next steps:

  • Review and update your relevant policies
  • Consider any workplace health and safety issues that could be impacted by an employee who is impaired
  • Have a clear policy especially for any employees who are commercial drivers
  • If you have employees travelling internationally, the Government of Canada states that travelling outside of Canada with cannabis in your possession is illegal in most countries. The US Border Services has a zero tolerance for individuals who are bringing marijuana (medical or recreational) into the country.
  • Make sure your employees are aware of any changes to policies.

If you have any questions on this topic or need assistance with your policy, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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