Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Read about the 2018 winners of the award at tgam.ca/workplaceaward.

Registration is now open for the 2019 Employee Recommended Workplace Awards at www.employeerecommended.com.

Part of cannabis and small business and retail

On Oct. 17, will your organization be ready to manage cannabis in your workplace?

Story continues below advertisement

This date is significant because it’s the day when recreational cannabis will be legalized by the Cannabis Act. Canada will become the first G7 country to fully legalize recreational cannabis, making it the only drug approved for both medical and recreational uses.

It was the question of whether organizations are ready for the legalization of cannabis that inspired the Conference Board of Canada to run two conferences in Toronto to help leaders prepare for the new context, and to complete a piece of research called Blazing the Trail – What the Legalization of Cannabis Means for Canadian Employers.

To frame the conversation, it’s important to recognize that the issue of recreational cannabis in the workplace is not new. While to date it has only been legal for medical use, employers have been dealing with the implications of cannabis, alcohol, cocaine, opioid and amphetamine use for years.

Medical authorization for cannabis use has been increasing at a rapid rate over the past 12 months and recreational use is also expected to increase as cannabis becomes more available and socially accepted.

In 2015, Health Canada found that 12 per cent of the Canadian population over 15 years of age had used cannabis in the past year. Based on data from the first quarter of 2018, the National Cannabis Survey showed that 14 per cent of Canadians in the same age group had used some form of cannabis (for medical or recreational purposes), with 7.8 per cent or 2.4 million using it daily or weekly. This means that on any given workday, a potentially significant number of employees are considering or using cannabis before, during or after work.

With the legalization of cannabis, employers may need to address some of the impacts on the workplace, including: workplace safety concerns; alcohol and drug policies and testing practices; problematic drug use or dependence; defining cannabis impairment; potential costs to the organization; implementing prevention strategies; accommodating medical cannabis use; and consumption during work-related events.

It appears that most organizations fall into one of two groups:

Story continues below advertisement

Organizations that are not so concerned take the stance that cannabis is generally not really a big deal. They believe that their substance abuse policies are, for the most part, managing this issue, which from their perspective is not new. Many are still conducting a quality review and refresh of their policies to ensure there is clear language around recreational use. They’re expanding on their fit-to-work policies to ensure that employees are clear on what impairment in the workplace means, and are making it clear that accommodations can be made for medical use only.

The concerned organizations are worried and plan to take certain steps. They may even spend time thinking about how to shape their policy language so as to help them manage the percentage of employees who may seek accommodations for medical cannabis use in the workplace. They’re committed to training managers on approaches to ensure employees are fit for work, and are providing general education for employees to ensure they have the knowledge they need to make informed decisions, rather than assuming they have the right facts. These employers are also more likely to confirm that their occupational health and safety systems and mental health strategies are aligned to support employees’ health and safety.

In preparation for the upcoming legalization of cannabis use, organizations can benefit from the following recommendations:

1. Provide all employees general information on cannabis, including its various strains, levels of THC in products, effects of different ingestion methods (such as smoking versus eating), and dangers of dependence to facilitate understanding of potential impacts on functioning, impairment risks, and legal implications.

2. Deliver a webinar to all employees that highlights and educates on the organization’s substance use policy in a way that’s easy, informative and engaging.

3. Ensure employees are clear on the when and why of cannabis testing policies and practices.

Story continues below advertisement

4. Clearly define cannabis impairment, what fit for duty means, and the employer’s as well as employees’ role in enforcing and supporting safety in the workplace – especially in safety-sensitive workplaces.

5. Train all managers on how to monitor and manage employees’ fitness to work with respect to cannabis use.

6. Consider training all employees on the links between stress, mental health, substance abuse, mental illness, resiliency and coping, to promote employee health and well-being.

7. Provide financial education on the cost of cannabis for medical use (such as using a flower versus oil) and the medical applications of the various types and forms of cannabis.

8. Make the organization’s position on consumption of cannabis at workplace events clear, and help employees deal with any bias, to reduce risk of peer conflict and harassment.

Monika Slovinec D’Angelo is a principal research associate with The Conference Board of Canada.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto.


Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter