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Cannabis in the Workplace: Workplace Policy [Video]

FTR Views

Cannabis in the Workplace: Workplace Policy [Video]

Date: September 20, 2018

In light of the legalization of recreational cannabis, it is critical that employers review all current policies to determine whether revisions are required. In this video, Jacqueline Luksha reviews key features of a Drug and Alcohol policy related to cannabis in the workplace. She also discusses the importance of training regarding cannabis use, and touches on policies dealing with accommodation requests.

Note that this video was made before the Ontario Government introduced Bill 36, the Cannabis Statute Law Amendment Act, 2018. See our update reviewing that Bill.

For more information on Cannabis in the workplace, please visit our dedicated Cannabis Topic Page.


Hi, my name is Jacqui Luksha and today I’ll be speaking to you about medical and recreational cannabis, and its impact on he workplace.

In light of the legalization of cannabis, it is critical that employers review all current policies to determine whether revisions are required.

It may also be prudent to consider adopting a drug and alcohol policy if one does not already exist.

When reviewing or revising your policies remember that cannabis legalization does not give people the right to recreationally consume cannabis in the workplace.

Recreational cannabis use should be treated similarly to other legal drugs, such as alcohol, in the workplace.

Keep in mind that the test to permit random drug testing has a high bar.

Drug and Alcohol Policy: Key Features

Let’s go through a few Key features that your Drug and Alcohol Policy should have. The policy should:

  • Define fundamental terms
  • Set out the terms of acceptable use, if any, and in doing so carefully consider whether, when and how a zero tolerance policy might apply
  • Clearly specify the disciplinary consequences for non-compliance, up to and including termination of employment
  • Prohibit use of drugs/tobacco/cannabis in the workplace
  • Prohibit the sale and distribution of cannabis in the workplace
  • Remember that you have a right to have your employees show up to work unimpaired – so include provisions on impairment and fitness to work
  • Employers have right to have all employees able to perform their jobs when they arrive at work

The policy should also address:

  • Absenteeism, accommodation, productivity, health and safety, and should prohibit consumption on breaks
  • It should also include the duty to disclose any dependency to employer
  • You could also consider including a duty to disclose any prescription or over the counter drug use that might impair
  • The policy should set out the process for addressing an employee who appears unable to perform work safely. For example, it should set out how to assess impairment, looking at things like slurred speech or bloodshot eyes
  • It should also set out what will happen when impairment is suspected. For example, perhaps you will take the employee to a private meeting where they can provide their side of the story
  • The policy should also inform employees of the employers duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, as well as the Human Rights Code
  • It should Establish the procedure for testing and post-testing, if applicable or appropriate
  • The policy should also Deal with use at workplace social events as well as actual work time
  • The should advise employees what accommodations and support might be available in circumstances where an employee might require assistance

Policy changes are not enough, though. Communication is key in this situations. You need to communicate to the employees and also receive their acknowledgement of all policy changes. There are cases where failure to communicate the policy and the consequences of breaching the policy were key in overturning the termination of employment.


To that point, training is also very important.

  • Training should be provided to managers/supervisors/H & S committee members
  • Employers and service providers must provide adequate training to your staff, with a focus on management, on how to appropriately deal with impairment and questions of impairment
  • There are cases where only one potential marker of impairment was considered and the termination of employment was overturned

Ensure the training is specific to cannabis use. For example:

  • how cannabis impairment presents itself,
  • improper or incorrect assumptions/perceptions of cannabis impairment,
  • how to spot cannabis use.
  • Remember that impairment can present itself in different ways and different forms

Accommodation Policy

You should also review your accommodation policy. Accommodation requests will come from two sources: addiction, and medical requirements.

Review your policies and ensure that drug and alcohol policies permit the use of medically prescribed cannabis where the need for use at work is medically substantiated by a healthcare provider.

Remember that employees are required to disclose their use of prescription medication where such usage may give rise to impairment in the workplace.

Ensure that you have a policy regarding accommodation, and make sure to draw it to your employees’ attention.

Accommodation will be further explored in a later module.

Thanks for listening and if you have any questions about cannabis in the workplace, please feel free to contact us.

The content in this video provides general information and should not be relied on as legal advice or opinion. This footage is copyrighted by Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP and may not be reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP. ©