Legalization of cannabis in Canada: What it means for your employees
Article 3 minute read

Legalization of cannabis in Canada: What it means for your employees

31 October 2018

On October 17, 2018, the Cannabis Act came into law in Canada which legalized and decriminalized cannabis in the country. The act provides a legal framework for controlling production, sale, distribution and possession. While the act gives adults access to legal cannabis, it is important to understand what this means for your employees.

Although marijuana is now legal, this does not mean that employees can be impaired at work or even possess marijuana at the office. The Cannabis Act includes an amendment to the Non-Smokers’ Health Act (NSHA) that prohibits smoking and vaping of cannabis in the workplace to protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke in federally regulated workplaces and on certain modes of transportation.

New policies 

Employers in Canada will now have the right to set rules and policies about non-medical use of marijuana in the workplace. Most companies already have drug and alcohol policies that prohibit the use of restricted substances while in the workplace that also prohibit employees from being impaired while working. These policies will need to be updated with language that is similar to the current rules set for alcohol. Employers will have to have a clear definition of what constitutes “impairment”. Since it is not acceptable to be intoxicated in the workplace, it should not be acceptable to be high. The new policies will also need to include the repercussions and proper protocols for employees who do not abide by the new rules. Once existing policies are updated, all employees should review and acknowledge that they understand and will abide by the new rules concerning marijuana in the workplace. 

Medical marijuana 

Employers have a duty to accommodate the needs of disabled employees or those with other physical or mental impairments, who are prescribed medical marijuana. These employees should be given a suitable workplace accommodation in the same way that a person who has been prescribed a medical drug prescription. On the other hand, a prescription for medical marijuana does not entitle an employee to:

  • be impaired at work
  • to compromise his or her safety, or the safety of others
  • to smoke in the workplace
  • to have unexcused absences.

These rules should also be added to the new workplace policy.

Health plan options 

With the legalization of marijuana, insurance providers will likely need to consider inclusion of cannabis as a covered drug, if they have not already. This coverage would be similar to any other drug that comes with a prescription. Employers will need to decide if they would want to add this to the group plan coverage for their employees. This is another consideration for your business as a result of the legalization. 

TMF Canada 

The changes in legal status of marijuana has created some unprecedented challenges for employers. Companies must create new policies for employees and TMF Canada can help in addition to offering a full spectrum of other HR and payroll services. Our team of experts are ready to help both local and global companies in Canada. 

Contact our experts in Canada to find out how we can help your business.

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Written by

Lisa Wilcox

Senior Director, Client Services TMF Canada
Lisa

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