September 13, 2018

With cannabis legalization set to come into effect on October 17, employers and unions are preparing to respond to the challenges posed by the increased availability and consumption of what was formerly an illicit substance. While workplace impairment is not a new issue, cannabis presents some unique difficulties that are not present with alcohol. For example, there is currently no medical consensus on the safe limits for cannabis consumption or an objective measurement of impairment. Therefore, while legalization is not a licence to attend work under the influence, it does pose a variety of challenges for employers and unions as they seek to ensure workplace safety without infringing on the rights of employees.

In this session, medical and legal experts will discuss the effects of cannabis, the challenges in assessing impairment, and common issues that arise in crafting workplace policies and rules. Issues to be addressed include:

  • Legal framework: What is the current legal framework regulating cannabis use? What other legislation aside from Bill C-45 regulates cannabis use?
  • Effects of cannabis use: How is cannabis normally ingested or consumed? How does it typically affect the body, both physically and psychologically? How long do these effects typically last? Can off-duty use impact on-duty performance? Is cannabis addictive or habit-forming?
  • Measuring impairment: Does consumption necessarily result in impairment? What are the symptoms of impairment? What are the challenges to determining whether a person is impaired? Is it possible for a layperson to reliably assess impairment? Are there any products currently available on the market that help in making this determination?
  • Crafting workplace policies: Are any changes required to existing workplace drug and alcohol policies? Are there any other common workplace policies that should also be reviewed? What elements should be included in a workplace policy dealing with cannabis use? In what circumstances, if any, can an employer adopt a zero-tolerance policy for use or possession?
  • Requiring disclosure: Can an employee be required to disclose off-duty recreational use of cannabis? What about off-duty medicinal use? Following the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Stewart v. Elk Valley Coal Corporation, can an employee be required to disclose substance dependence prior to a work-related incident or else face dismissal without the benefit of accommodation?
  • Consumption in the workplace: Does legalization now mean that employees are entitled to consume cannabis in the workplace? Can employers prohibit use on their property or while attending offsite work events? Does the approach differ if dealing with medicinal use vs. recreational use?