What You Need To Know About Recreational Marijuana

For employers, what’s essential to remember is that the use of recreational cannabis in the workplace should be treated similar to recreational alcohol at work. The topic seems intimidating but the rules are generally the same.

It’s not legal for an employee to come to work with a bottle of wine and drink it at their desk, in the same way, it’s not legal for an employee to come to work with any form of recreational cannabis and consume it at work. For the time being, the difference between alcohol and marijuana is predominantly in the location in which they can be consumed and who is licensed to serve.

More precisely:

  • Alcohol cannot be consumed in public without a license (eg: no open beer on the street)
  • Cannabis can only be consumed in the place of residence (and will likelyeventually be available in licensed facilities)

Legalization May Create a Huge Spike In Demand

According to Deloitte, 22% of the Canadian adult population uses recreational cannabis occasionally. Another 17% may be willing to use cannabis if it is legal. If you think there is impairment, you have a duty to inquire rather than fire. Human Rights has evolved and employers are expected to support employees with disabilities including dependence, by accommodating them to the point of undue hardship.

Recognizing Impairment

Employers cannot inquire about an employee’s habits or interest in using cannabis, unless they recognize impairment. If an employee is displaying signs of impairment, the employer will want to investigate in
a fair and professional manner with another manager present as a witness. The employer can inquire because they have reason to be concerned and therefore this does not violate the employee’s privacy rights. Employers may wish to locate a Sample Incident Report (workplacesafetynorth.ca/sites/default/fles/cannabis_whitepaper_2017_CCOHS.pdf) which helps
describe problematic behaviours around speech, balance, and unusual actions.

Signs of Cannabis Use

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Strong odour
  • Fast heart rate
  • Sleepy
  • Lack of coordination
  • Increased appetite
  • Confusion and lack of focus
  • Unusually talkative
  • Unusual anxiety, fear or panic

If the employee is showing clear signs of impairment, the employer should send the employee home in a taxi (paid by the company) and tell the employee to return to work the next day ready to address the behaviour. Another manager should be present for all of these steps.

When the employee returns, the employer can ask about the conduct and concerns, and determine what is at play:

  • Is there substance addiction (protected as a disability under human rights, requiring accommodation)?
  • Was this a one-time error?
  • Was the employee unaware of the workplace policies?

Want to learn more?

The distinction between medical and recreational marijuana use is an important one for managers to appreciate. The rules that govern employees’ use of recreational versus medically prescribed marijuana are significantly different. Make sure you understand the whole picture.

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