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Toking 9 to 5? Clearing the Haze on Cannabis Consumption in the Canadian Workplace

Medical marijuana

In summer 2018, non-medical cannabis will be legalized in Canada. While drug use in the workplace is not a new phenomenon, employers worry that legalization of non-medical cannabis use will lead to greater accessibility to cannabis among employees, resulting in increased use, more impairment, and potential adverse effects on workplace productivity and safety. The lack of information regarding current workplace cannabis consumption patterns and perceptions, as well as a lack of guidance from regulators regarding policies on workplace safety is a cause for concern for workplace parties.

The labour market in Canada exceeds 18 million people (62% of the population) and employed Canadians spend most of their waking hours at work or commuting to and from work. Thus, any increases in cannabis use by workers following legalization have the potential to affect a large proportion of Canadians and may have spillover effects in the workplace. The possible implications of this are significant, as some research suggests cannabis use is associated with adverse workplace outcomes, including occupational accidents and injuries, work absenteeism, reduced productivity, job turnover, and unemployment.

Workplace parties do not feel prepared to adequately address the issues that may arise from legalization. They have an appetite for more information to guide development of effective workplace policies and primary prevention initiatives to ensure low risk use as it pertains to the workplace. However, data on workplace cannabis use in Canada is undeniably inadequate and limited in scope.

While available Statistics Canada data suggest 16% of the Canadian working population (~3 million workers) have used cannabis in the previous 12 months, estimates reflect overall use, including use that may occur away from work, which may be of limited relevance to occupational health and safety. There is a critical lack of data on how Canadian workers consume cannabis temporally in relation to their work, their perceptions of risk and impact of workplace cannabis use, reasons for use, workplace cannabis climate, and knowledge of cannabis effects. These data are crucial to begin to understand the potential effect cannabis legalization may have on the workplace.

The Institute for Work and Health (IWH) will be conducting a research study from a pan-Canadian population-level data utilizing a special survey of workers across a wide range of industries and occupations. Once complete, the results will inform a number of practical resources for workplace parties that will highlight facts about the current magnitude of workplace cannabis consumption, worker perceptions about workplace cannabis use, and knowledge gaps in their understanding of the potential effects of use in the workplace.

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