Business Law, Employer, Litigation, Law Practice

Marijuana in the workplace: Are your workplace policies adapted?

Jun 20th, 2018

By Nathalie Proulx

Presently authorized in Canada for medical purposes exclusively, the use of marijuana will soon be permitted for recreational purposes, probably by fall 2018. At the dawn of this important change in the Canadian legislative landscape, have you thought of what it means for you as an employer and what measures you should take in order to be ready?

As an employer, you have the legal obligation to take measures to protect the health and security of your employees in the workplace, while respecting their right to privacy. You also have the duty to accommodate your employees unless this obligation causes excessive constraint. As for your employees, they have the obligation to look after their health and security in the workplace, as well as the health and security of others. They also have to provide their work performance with diligence, caution, loyalty and honesty.

These obligations remain, but they must be adapted to this new reality. To do so, a well-written workplace policy that is understood by your employees is the best tool to position yourself in light of these changes, and to have a clearly defined and easy to apply legal framework should any problems arise.

Your workplace policy on marijuana (which could also target the consumption of alcohol and other mind-altering substances) should especially anticipate:

  1. A prohibition to possess, consume or traffic alcohol, drugs and other mind-altering substances in the workplace and to be under its effects on the occasion of their work. Despite the legality to come of marijuana, its usage in the workplace remains banished (in the same way as cigarettes).
  2. An obligation for an employee to disclose an authorized use of marijuana for medical purposes: you can then be assured to ask your employees the relevant questions to determine in what measure the use of marijuana affect their abilities and decide how you will fulfill your duty to accommodate.
  3. The imposition of drug tests. It is your right, but this right can only be exercised if you have a reasonable motive (for example, a work accident or an absence related to consumption).
  4. The measures adopted with regards to people suffering from dependence. You could have the duty to accommodate these employees. You should provide the possibility for your employees to disclose their dependence, in complete confidentiality.
  5. The disciplinary measures applicable in case of violation of the workplace policy. These measures could go from returning the employee to his home to his dismissal (depending on the circumstances).

Preparation for this important change is necessary. For this purpose, we are currently working closely with our clients to ensure the consistency of their internal policies with the legal provisions to this change. Make sure you are ready too!