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Employment & Labour

Employers 'concerned' about navigating cannabis legalization

Employers are expressing a great deal of apprehension about how the legalization of cannabis will impact the workplace, Toronto employment and human rights lawyer Nicole Simes tells The Lawyer’s Daily.

Simes, a lawyer with MacLeod Law Firm, says her office has been inundated with calls from “overwhelmed” clients who “need help” understanding the effect the changing landscape will have on their organizations.

“There are a lot of employers who are concerned about this and they need education on the law; they need information; they need help with drafting policies and they are going to need help with understanding appropriate responses to limit their liability if issues arise,” Simes says, adding that “maybe [there is] a gap in what employers think they can do … legally.”

The article says that according to the Conference Board of Canada report Blazing the Trail: What the Legalization of Cannabis Means for Canadian Employers, 52 per cent of employers are concerned about its impact, the article says, adding the biggest concern is workplace safety, followed by impairment, increased use, company drug testing and providing accommodation for addiction and prescribed use.

With recreational marijuana set to become legal in Canada on Oct. 17, the report highlights “the uncertainties and lack of evidence when it comes to evaluating impairment from cannabis use,” and that some employers may have to set broad recreational use policies due to "the drug’s differing effects.”

“Because true impairment can be difficult to measure, this begs the question of how employers should navigate the recreational use of cannabis by their employees — especially for employers operating in safety-sensitive environments,” the report states, before explaining that employers are within their rights to “regulate the consumption, possession and trafficking of cannabis at work,” in much the same way they do with alcohol.

“Any workplace will … have to consider potential challenges around workplace productivity, motivation, absenteeism and presenteeism, and the right of all workers to a safe workplace,” it states. “Because of the drug’s differing effects and less-consistent timelines for impairment, a one-size-fits-all approach emulating policy related to alcohol consumption may not be appropriate.”

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