Canada’s proposed Bill C-45, The Cannabis Act, is expected to come into force on July 1, 2018, as will Ontario’s Cannabis Act, 2017. At that point, in Ontario, it will be legal for individuals aged 19 years and older to purchase and consume cannabis for non-medical purposes, to grow up to 4 plants per household, and to carry up to 30 grams on their person. This may result in an increase in the number of recreational users and, because more people are likely to be using or carrying cannabis, it is possible the drug will be found in the workplace.
Although the legislation would prohibit the consumption of recreational cannabis in public places and in workplaces, employers must consider that employees who smoke or ingest cannabis (even during their off-hours) may be impaired while on the job, thereby jeopardizing the safety of others in the workplace. All business owners have a responsibility to make employee safety a priority and to properly handle incidents of impairment.
It is worth noting that medical cannabis will remain subject to different laws. Unless otherwise restricted under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017, medical cannabis can be smoked or vaped in places where recreational use would be prohibited. The consumption of other forms of medical cannabis are not similarly restricted.
Employers should prepare for the legalization of recreational cannabis and should ensure that they can properly navigate the workplace issues to which it will likely give rise. To this end, employers can:
- Update Manuals and Policies: Amend workplace policies to include provisions regarding the possession and being under the influence of cannabis while at work, accommodation requirements, disciplinary actions, and the like.
- Implement Training and Education: Introduce mandatory training and education for employees on topics such as the effects of cannabis, how to recognize impairment, the importance of work safety, and the steps to take if someone is impaired on the job.
- Introduce Drug Testing (if permitted): Industries or occupations with specific safety requirements are permitted to ask employees to undergo proper drug testing. Implementing a testing policy enables the employer and the employees to clearly understand their respective rights and obligations.