Cannabis edibles entering the marketplace this month pose a new set of challenges for employers that have already grappled with recreational cannabis. "Managing cannabis impairment may not be new to workplaces," says John Aird, WSPS' Manager of Strategic Partnerships, "but the unique challenges of cannabis edibles are."
John identifies three challenges:
- because the effects take longer to be felt, there is a higher risk of overconsumption.
- people who consume cannabis edibles the night before may still show up to work impaired because impairment lasts longer.
- usage is harder to detect. Cannabis edibles don't have the instantly recognizable scent of smoked cannabis, notes John, so how do you know if someone has eaten some?
Not convinced cannabis of any kind is an issue in your workplace? Here's food for thought: although Canada legalized the medical use of cannabis 20 years ago, a new national survey has found that 43% of employees using cannabis for medical purposes had not reported their medical use to employers. Furthermore, 27% of respondents who use cannabis medicinally and almost 25% of respondents who use it recreationally work in safety-sensitive positions.*
How to manage cannabis edibles
Follow these five steps to prepare your workplace for the potential effects of cannabis edibles.
- Review and update your workplace's drug and alcohol and fit for duty policies to include edible cannabis. Employers have the right to establish policies prohibiting the use of drugs in the workplace, and to require that employees be free from impairment while at work. This includes company events and celebrations. No one needs cannabis edibles at your next potluck.
- Review your updated policies with all employees. State your expectations regarding drug and alcohol use and fitness for duty, making clear to employees that impairment of any kind is unacceptable. Go over everyone's duties under the policies. Outline steps that will be taken to ensure compliance, and the consequences of non-compliance. Also state expectations that employees will advise the employer if they are taking medications (as part of a medical treatment) that could impact their performance.
- Provide all employees with accurate information on cannabis so they can make informed decisions. New research conducted by the Conference Board of Canada has found that only 28% of employers have general education on cannabis in place even though the effects of cannabis consumption are broadly misunderstood and vary considerably from person to person.**
- Train managers and supervisors on how to detect and document signs of impairment should testing and disciplinary action be necessary, and on how to talk to employees who may be at risk of impairment or substance abuse. Cannabis impairment may take the form of disorientation, poor motor skills, slower perception, and sudden behaviour changes.
- Put a process in place to deal with impaired employees. For example, how should workers inform their supervisor of concerns about a potentially impaired co-worker? How will the employer remove an impaired person from the workplace? How will the employer accommodate disability-related impairment? What support is available to people with impairment issues?
How WSPS can help
Some of the ways we can assist include:
- consulting services, including creating or revising policies and programs, and providing guidance on addressing impairment in hazard assessments
- classroom training - Impairment in the Workplace: What Managers Need to Know and more (half day)
- eCourse - Impairment and Cannabis in the Workplace (1 hour)
- free downloads, such as a job aid on cannabis and impairment at work, a sample policy on impairment, and a sample impairment reporting tool.
Find out more about WSPS resources on workplace impairment from cannabis use.
* The survey was conducted by the Conference Board of Canada and The Globe and Mail. Read highlights in this blog, The case for employers to have well-defined cannabis policies, by the Conference Board of Canada's Bill Howatt.
** Acting on the Cannabis Act: Workplace Policy Approaches to Cannabis, published by the Conference Board of Canada in August 2019.