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- Hub staff

No one has a “right” to consume cannabis in the workplace – that was the takeaway message from the lawyers at this morning's Owen Sound and District Chamber of Commerce “Cannabis in the Workplace” workshop.

Representatives from Sherrard Kuzz LLP (SK) Employment and Labour Lawyers began their presentation with Statistic Canada figures that 23% of part-time and full-time workers use cannabis and 7.7% use cannabis to get high before or at work on a daily or weekly basis. Legalization of cannabis does not mean that an employee is permitted to consume cannabis in the workplace or attend work impaired.

The Smoke Free Ontario Act prohibits smoking or vaping in “any enclosed space”, but workplace policies can prohibit cannabis smoking even in parking lots or open spaces, and edibles when they become legally available.

Policies are exactly what the SK lawyers recommend. Alcohol is legally available to adults, but most workplaces have policies about its use before or at work, and SK suggest similar policies should be in place concerning cannabis.

Even where cannabis is prescribed for medical use, if an employee cannot perform work safely or an appropriate accommodation is not possible, the employer has a legal obligation to protect the safety of the employee, customers and the public. 

Accommodations, drug testing and response to substance use disorders were also discussed, and vary depending on the size and nature of a workplace and the collective agreements in place.

The most critical tool is a "properly prepared  and implemented policy" that prohibits employees from working under the influence of anything that may impair their ability to perform their work safely - prescription or over the counter medications, legal drugs and alcohol, or illegal drugs - and requires employees to disclose any drugs used that might impair them.

And if in doubt – call your lawyer.


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