Managing the impact of marijuana in the workplace

Oct 18, 2018

marijuanaRecreational marijuana is now legal. For many employers still struggling with how to accommodate employees who have been prescribed cannabis for medicinal purposes, this will create new challenges and questions. How do you define impairment and fitness for work? What types of tasks are safety sensitive? These are key concerns that leadership needs to manage before the legislation passes.

Mindful of the need for action, the CEO Health + Safety Leadership Network held a panel discussion about the steps and strategies leaders should take to mitigate risk in their organizations. Established through the efforts of WSPS in 2014, the CEO Health + Safety Leadership Network is a distinguished group of leaders who share a commitment to building sustainable businesses and communities in order to optimize organizational health and safety performance.

Here is a sampling of insights from the discussion, captured in Marijuana in the Workplace: Conversations About the Impact on Employers and Employees, a White Paper published by WSPS.

Participants agreed that understanding all of the nuances of this issue will take time and experience.

What employers need to know

  • Prior to legalization, marijuana is the most prevalently used illicit drug in Canada.
  • Consuming recreational marijuana at work is and will remain illegal.
  • Marijuana use, particularly THC products (the principal psychoactive constituent), can cause residual impairment for 24 to 48 hours.
  • The legislation may affect the entire organization, not just safety-sensitive positions.

Basic principles when dealing with marijuana in the workplace

  • Safety should always come first.
  • Protecting employees' rights is important, but employers have rights too.

How to move your organization forward

  • Review highlights of the federal cannabis legislation and Ontario's new workplace rules.
  • Update your hazard assessments to include the potential for impairment.
  • Create a policy and program on the use of any substance that can cause impairment. Write the policy in a way that leaves room for dialogue. Include definitions of key terms, such as "impairment" and "fitness to work".
  • Consider the entire organization's needs, not just safety-sensitive positions.
  • Consult with stakeholders and experts.
  • Follow what leading organizations are doing, such as the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). In the White Paper, you'll find an interview with Megan MacRae, the TTC's Executive Director, Human Resources, on the organization's drug and alcohol testing program.

How WSPS can help