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Forget the sit-down dinner and evening wear. Holiday office parties now reside firmly in the realm of business casual, with everything from tech company culture, millennial tastes and attitudes and flatter corporate structure, making the annual gathering a significantly more chill affair.

In this laid-back entertaining atmosphere, and with recreational use of cannabis for adults now in its second year of legalization in Canada, employees may expect to see cannabis treated the same way as alcohol at the holiday party. The question is, are employers ready to treat cannabis connoisseurs with the same respect and reverence as Alex from accounting who knows a thing or two about single malt scotch?

Culture is king

Read the culture of your workplace when determining the best approach to accommodating cannabis at your company party. For companies with a more conservative or traditional culture, one consideration may be to make an effort to not alienate employees who may wish to legally partake in cannabis on an equal footing with those enjoying a glass of wine. Make your policies clear before an event, and that includes ensuring staff treat each other with respect regardless of their food, beverage or vaping choices.

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For some employers, being at the cutting edge of entertainment and cultural trends is part of your brand and internal company culture. Or you may put a premium on being inclusive of the lifestyle choices of your employees. In these cases, having a pro-active plan for cannabis use at your holiday party will demonstrate that you live your company values and possess the level of organizational maturity required to either offer or facilitate cannabis use at company events.

As a partner at a recent private event, our cannabis company TREC Brands offered various stations to allow for guests to experience cannabis in whichever way best suited them. For example, CBD oil-infused appetizers were served alongside a “rolling” station, where budtenders educated guests on the product and how to roll joints.

Enhance the experience

Just as a bartender is expected to know how to make a martini using the right implements, ingredients and maybe even a creative flourish or two, cannabis use has its own series of rituals and tools. As a holiday party host, your options to facilitate or offer cannabis exist on a sliding scale, adjusted according to your culture. If you expect partygoers to be smoking cannabis in designated areas at your event, consider a rolling station to accommodate the practical needs of guests. Not only is this a potential matter of etiquette, it encourages your guests to view the activity as socially acceptable and stigma-free. After all, you wouldn’t serve a gin and tonic without ice or expect someone to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew, would you?

For cannabis hosts offering edibles alongside cocktails, beer or wine, be sure to label products clearly and place an ambassador nearby to explain the effects of any THC or CBD products. Informed consent and awareness of the psychoactive properties of THC and, to a lesser extent CBD, is your primary responsibility as a host, regardless of the level of cannabis literacy among your guests.

Start low, go slow

Just like alcohol, cannabis has different effects on different people. Experienced and new users alike who are consuming cannabis at a party should be encouraged to keep the dosage low and go slow. Whether guests are using their own products or are consuming cannabis offered as part of the festivities, the onus is on employers to be aware of over-indulgence to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all of their guests. Having sufficient food on site will help keep guests satiated and water will keep people hydrated and happy.

Rules abound

The culture surrounding cannabis use in Canada is evolving rapidly in both public and private spaces. Yet, rules abound and employers should be mindful that principles and practices applying to alcohol use also apply to cannabis use. Organizing a party where cannabis is accommodated or encouraged means ensuring all your guests are 19 years of age or older, attendance is on an invite-only basis and that your party venue is in a private setting. With cannabis, the primary rule for all party hosts is to be the one with the plan.

Trang Trinh is founding director and chief executive officer of TREC Brands, a socially conscious cannabis company based in Toronto.

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This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.

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