The Canadian Government has legalized cannabis for non-medical use. However, the rapid and significant changes to the legal status of cannabis raise new questions and challenges for Canadian employers. Here, we provide a general overview of the most important things employers should know about cannabis in the workplace:
Cannabis is a legal psychoactive substance in Canada, just like alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine. A recent national study revealed 17.5% of Canadians aged 15 and older used cannabis at least once in the last three months. A few of us—about 6%—use cannabis most days. Some of us use cannabis at work.
A profusion of people have concerns about the role of cannabis in the workplace. Some of these concerns are based on myths, others on observation or experience, benefits, and risks associated with it. It’s an intricate topic, but a better comprehension of why people use cannabis and ways to avoid workplace risks may clear some of the confusion.
What is the current legal status of Cannabis in Canada?
The Government of Canada legalized the recreational use of cannabis on October 17, 2018. In October 2019, the Government legalized the production and sale of edible cannabis and cannabis extracts.
Does legalization of Cannabis mean employees can be impaired at work?
No. Employers have the right to set rules for non-medical use of cannabis in the workplace in much the same way that employers currently set regulations for alcohol use. In particular, employers may prohibit the use of cannabis at work or during working hours and prohibit employees from attending work while impaired. Employers may enforce workplace rules regarding non-medical use of cannabis by applying the employer’s progressive discipline policy.
Cannabis leads to laziness and lack of productivity
Many people who use cannabis have full-time jobs and families. Young people who use cannabis may indeed be more likely to drop out of school. But the choice to leave isn’t about cannabis. The reasons are usually much more profound. Cannabis use is more likely a way of coping with those reasons.
Why some people use cannabis while working?
Some people use cannabis routinely, throughout the day, for medical or therapeutic reasons. They may have a physical or mental health problem, such as cancer or anxiety, that responds well to THC (a mind-altering compound) or CBD (a therapeutic compound that doesn’t affect cognition). These folks may have difficulty functioning without cannabis.
A few people who have been using cannabis for a long time may continue to use it as it offers some benefit, perhaps a sense of calmness, useful in some work settings. These people may not experience much of a high.
Some people who use cannabis claim THC helps them cope with stress or the boredom of routine tasks at work, provided there are no safety concerns. For them, cannabis offers a lift in spirit or change of perspective needed to do a job well.
Does the duty to accommodate extend to medical Cannabis?
Yes. As required by provincial and federal human rights legislation, the duty to accommodate extends to disabled employees who use medical cannabis. These employees are to be accommodated in the same way as an employer accommodates any other disabled employee who has been prescribed medication. Accommodation is also required for employees who may have an addiction disability. However, the duty to accommodate is not without limits.
How far does the duty to accommodate employees using medical Cannabis extend?
Human rights legislation requires that a disabled employee be accommodated. What precisely does this mean in the context of medical cannabis?
- A prescription for medical cannabis does not entitle an employee to be impaired at work;
- Prescription for medical cannabis does not entitle an employee to compromise his or her safety or the safety of others;
- A prescription for medical cannabis does not entitle an employee to smoke in the workplace;
- A prescription for medical cannabis does not entitle an employee to unexcused absences or late arrivals;
However, the employer is required to attempt to find suitable workplace accommodation for disabled employees who have a prescription for medical cannabis use, just as would be necessary for any other disabled employee with a medical drug prescription.
Cannabis is a medicine, so it doesn’t cause harm
Cannabis is similar to other drugs, including prescription medicines, in that it can be both helpful and harmful. (Consider the list of side effects that come with some prescription medications.)
Cannabis helps moderate pain, reduce nausea, and promoting appetite for people with certain medical conditions, such as cancer. For people struggling with PTSD or other challenging experiences, cannabis can offer a “time away” from memories and may provide a rest from the pain of everyday life. On the other hand, heavy, long-term cannabis use can cause health and social problems.
What can employees do to meet their obligations?
Employers may need to revisit workplace policies that address drug and alcohol use, with attention to two competing obligations: on the one hand, employers have a duty to accommodate disabled employees, and medical cannabis is used to treat medical conditions that can constitute a “disability.” On the other hand, employers must take every reasonable precaution to ensure their workplaces’ safety and continue to have the right to prohibit impairment on the job. Assessment of impairment at work may prove to be the most challenging aspect of designing and implementing policies regarding the use of cannabis, as testing for drug and alcohol use remains one of the most contentious contemporary issues in Canadian workplace law.
Employers faced with an accommodation request may wish to consider providing similar accommodation measures for other disabled employees. These measures may include moving the employee out of a safety-sensitive position, providing more frequent breaks, implementing alternative scheduling, altering the employee’s duties, etc.
The benefits and risks of using cannabis at work
Cannabis has therapeutic qualities that help some people function and keep their job. Without it, they may not be able to work as well, or at all.
Legally, adults may not be impaired by THC while working or operating a vehicle. This is because THC can be a depressant, slowing down the activity in our central nervous system. This can equate to slower brain function, poor concentration, and confusion.
Being impaired by THC can lead to accidents or death in occupations where concentration is paramount, such as jobs in the medical field, oil and gas industry, or any position that involves driving, operating heavy machinery, or working in dangerous situations. These jobs carry a great deal of responsibility that affects you, the worker, and the workers and others around you.
There are personal and social costs too. Losing your license can affect your self-esteem and confidence, reputation among family and friends, and your job (if your job involves you driving to get to work). An impaired driving charge can stay on your driving record for a long time.
What is the future of Cannabis in the workplace?
The changes to the legal status of cannabis have created unique and unprecedented challenges for employers. It may seem daunting; however, employers need not change their practices drastically. To accommodate an employee who uses medical cannabis, an employer can start by mirroring the methods it has developed for accommodating any employee who has been prescribed drugs that have the potential to impact or impair his or her work. To limit the use of non-medical cannabis at work, an employer can look to existing practices related to the use of alcohol, other prescription drugs, or cigarettes.
Nevertheless, there will be some changes. Zero tolerance workplace policies for cannabis use or possession will likely become unenforceable. We may also see employees begin to request or negotiate for coverage under health and benefits plans for medical cannabis prescriptions.
What employers can do
Make well-being the focus
Creating a healthy workplace involves everyone. It requires us to acknowledge others’ perspectives and experiences and build shared values. Evidence suggests that when an employer’s values and decisions align with staff well-being, workers are more motivated to strive to do their best, benefiting both the organization and the employees. A supportive culture and open communication among people are the foundation of a healthy workplace. Organizational values of diversity, fairness, respect, and trust will be reflected in workplace culture, helpful or unhelpful ways people communicate with each other.
It will be essential to engage with staff around how cannabis use in the workplace may affect co-workers and customers/clients. This includes discussing perceptions of safety and productivity.
Things to consider:
- What does a healthy workplace look and feel like?
- How can we support health and wellness in our workplace?
- Tips on creating a positive workplace culture:
- Engage with employees and co-workers regularly
- Solve issues together
- Be transparent
- Nurture opportunities for collaboration
Dialogue is a conversation in which participants seek to understand each other. While talking is a part of the conversation, where listening and asking good questions is more important. The goal is not to come away from having convinced someone about something but to understand another’s perspective. Dialogue seeks wholeness, not oneness.
Opening a dialogue with all stakeholders in the workplace—employers, supervisors, staff—can help create a broad understanding of the views within the organization. This understanding provides a critical foundation from which to develop shared approaches that respect everyone. Dialogue also helps participants develop skills for the civil exchange of ideas needed in democratic communities. In dialogue, we discover new ideas that allow us to evolve our thinking and become lifelong learners. We also increase capacity to build stronger teams.
At CanMar recruitment, we have a fantastic set of clients looking for a tremendous like yours. Click here to know more about; The Hiring process.
How to find your dream role in Cannabis Industry?
The Cannabis Industry is hiring. Keep a note that applying for jobs in the cannabis industry is similar to what transpires in other sectors. Be passionate about the product, curious to learn, know the industry and stay agile. If you follow the tips mentioned above, it is sure that there is a Cannabis job waiting for you. All you have to do is to submit your profile at CanMar recruitment.