Common challenges

Green Screen: Marijuana, Impairment, and Drug Testing in the Workplace

August 17, 2017

Recreational marijuana use is scheduled to get the green light in Canada next summer, which has many employers nervous about the law’s possible side effects on the workplace, from health and safety issues to employee attendance and productivity. These and other concerns have many Canadian employers and HR professionals feeling uncertain about how to meet the challenges of the 2018 reforms.

Research reveals that a significant concern shared by many employers is how to differentiate between medical and recreational marijuana in order to effectively balance the duty to accommodate disability and prevent the health and safety issues that exist when a worker is impaired. How your workplace responds to the legalization of marijuana will greatly depend on the nature and industry of your workplace; however, it’s important to be proactive in knowing how your workplace should adapt to the changing legal landscape and what is within your rights as an employer.

While recreational marijuana use will generally affect workplaces much like the recreational consumption of alcohol does today, the legal changes raise some unique issues that employers should keep in mind. For example, given that medicinal marijuana has been legal in Canada since 1999, how might you balance the need to accommodate an employee’s medically authorized use while meeting your workplace health and safety requirements? If you work in a safety-sensitive industry where the risk of impairment may be a concern, how do you recognize the signs of impairment, and what are your rights and obligations regarding preventive or disciplinary measures, including drug testing?

With legalization set to take effect on July 1, 2018, employers and HR professionals alike should develop strategies that ensure the health and safety of their workplaces, as well as uphold their employees’ rights. Make sure you are prepared for the legislative changes. Download our FREE Marijuana Impairment Guide for Employers to get up-to-date on impairment, accommodation, and drug testing in the workplace.

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Sources:Canadian Human Rights Commission, Impaired at Work: A guide to accommodating substance dependenceOntario Human Rights Commission Policy on Drug and Alcohol Testing (2016)

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