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The Cannabis Act and How Employers Should Respond

On April 13, 2017, the Liberal government—in partnership with law enforcement, health and safety experts, and the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation—tabled legislation regarding cannabis (marijuana) legalization. In its proposal, officials noted that the government will provide regulated and restricted access to cannabis no later than July 2018.

If passed, the proposed Cannabis Act would end Canada’s prohibition on pot and regulate it for recreational use. Employers must be aware of the new changes and should consider doing the following:

  • Update drug policies. Legalizing recreational marijuana could increase the number of employees who smoke. Accordingly, employers must update existing drug policies and communicate new expectations to employees. These guidelines should outline testing procedures and define when testing may take place. While marijuana use will no longer be illegal, employers can restrict the possession of marijuana in the workplace.
  • Accommodate health needs. Remember, marijuana can be used to treat an illness or medical condition. In these cases, it may be helpful to review existing policies and procedures related to the use of prescription medications in the workplace.
  • Discipline employees when applicable. Remember that marijuana legalization does not give employees the right to freely smoke in the workplace. Employers should expect their employees to show up sober and ready to work. Employers should be empowered to discipline employees when marijuana usage has an adverse impact on job performance.

If passed, Canada would be the first member of leading industrial nations to legalize marijuana for recreational use. It’s important for employers to remain up to date on news related to the Cannabis Act and to act accordingly.

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