Are the Old Rules
Up in Smoke?
IMPACT OF THE LEGALIZATION OF RECREATIONAL
MARIJUANA ON THE WORKPLACE
By Sheryl L. Johnson
Alcohol has been legal in Canada since the national pro-hibition
ended in 1920, and the Temperance Act ceased
being effective in Ontario in 1927. Medical marijuana
has been legal in Canada since 1999 (in addition to
numerous other prescription narcotic and controlled drugs).
Ask yourself whether your organization’s workplace has been
plagued with: an increase in safety incidents, accidents and insur-ance
claims due to alcohol or medical marijuana use; alcohol or
marijuana dependency accommodation issues; spikes in absentee-ism
or tardiness; plummets in productivity and performance, due
to the availability of – or your employees’ increased – access to
such intoxicants? The answer likely is “no” unless you work in an
industry, profession or organization that bears the burden of hav-ing
high risk factors for alcohol and drug dependency.
Added to the mix is the legalization of recreational marijuana with
the enactment of Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, and its regulations on
Oct. 17, 2018. Under this national legislation, Canadians are enti-tled
to possess and share up to 30 grams of legal dried marijuana.
With legalization comes commercialization, distribution and
increased availability. Increased availability will always result in
increased use; alcohol is the perfect example. Should this keep
employers up at night? Proactive, savvy and forward-thinking
employers will translate concerns about increased use into updated
workplace rules, policies and programs that keep abreast of the
latest legislated changes and societal norms. To effectively do so,
employers must understand the legislated changes and norms as
well as their workplace implications, or lack thereof, so that they
can educate and train their employees.
Are all of the old rules, including those under their workplace
policies, up in smoke with the enactment of Bill C-45?
The clear and resounding answer is “no.” The same rules gener-ally
apply as when dealing with the impact of all other intoxicants
in the workplace. With the legalization of alcohol, medical mari-juana
and now recreational marijuana, nothing has really changed
in relation to the rules concerning workplace intoxication.
Employers must continue to be confident in their ability to ensure
that their employees aren’t intoxicated on the job and to prohibit
the use of intoxicants at work. Employees must be confident that
their employers will continue to strike a balance between work-place
health and safety and productivity, and employees’ privacy
and human rights at work.
What does this mean on a practical level for employers?
Where there is a dependence
issue that is disclosed and
known by the employer, the duty
to accommodate is to be applied
in the same way up to the point
of undue hardship
alexraths / 123RF Stock Photo
HRPROFESSIONALNOW.CA ❚ OCTOBER 2018 ❚ 31