Are You Ready? Navigating Medical and Recreational Cannabis in the Workplace

June 29, 2018

As an employer, it’s important to prepare yourself for the legalization of cannabis. Understand the implications of cannabis use in your workplace and understand what your organization needs to do in terms of policy creation or amendment. Below are some key points to consider to determine your level of readiness.

  • Establishing an alcohol and drug policy will assist the employer in meeting its obligations under two main legislative schemes: (1) occupational health and safety and (2) human rights.
  • An alcohol and drug policy which requires routine testing for cannabis use will likely only be reasonable for safety-sensitive positions.
  • Employers with employees in safety sensitive positions should ensure they have a drug and alcohol policy that provides for testing.
  • Where there is evidence of a general problem of substance abuse in a workplace, random testing may be justified.
  • Test results from prohibited testing cannot be relied up to impose discipline.
  • Testing or no testing, employers need to have human resources and supervisors trained in detecting and investigating the signs of impairment.
  • There is a recognized right for employers to discipline employees who, without justification, use marijuana during working hours. However, facts matter and termination is not always the appropriate response.
  • Addiction to marijuana and medical use of marijuana to treat disabilities are both realities that can engage a duty to accommodate. Assumptions should not be made – Employers must be prepared to assess, with professional input, reasonable accommodations relative to the workplace and position held.
  • A disability is not an unfettered licence for an employee to be high at work.
  • To ensure enforceability of a new or revised alcohol and drug policy, workplace rules should be developed in consultation with union (in unionized workplace) or with notice and clear communication to employees (in non-unionized workplace).

To discuss the implications of cannabis use in your workplace, to understand what you need to do in terms of policy creation or amendment to prepare for cannabis legalization, and for any other related questions you may have, contact the lawyer nearest you.


On May 16, 2018, members of our Regional Employment & Labour group broadcasted a webinar on Navigating Medical and Recreational Cannabis in the Workplace, featuring Dr. Andrea Burry, a leading physician and workplace cannabis consultant. Click the link below to listen to the complete webinar and access the materials. 

Complete Webinar – Getting Down in the Weeds: Navigating Medical and Recreational Cannabis in the Workplace


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Cox & Palmer publications are intended to provide information of a general nature only and not legal advice. The information presented is current to the date of publication and may be subject to change following the publication date.