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Cannabis Legalization: The Importance of Setting an Internal Policy

The likely enactment of Bill C-45 on the legalization of cannabis will definitely impact human resource management.

There are numerous concerns:

  • Will productivity and absenteeism be impacted?
  • How can the legal framework be respected?
  • What recourses will be available to measure consumption?

These are important matters to consider and they confirm that Canadian businesses will need to adapt.

Managers’ concerns

A survey by the Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés reveals that some three-quarters of its members are concerned by the legalization of cannabis. Close to 40% of them also believe that drug use in the workplace is already a problem.

Managers need to start looking at how they will manage the impact of legalizing the recreational use of cannabis. They will need to strike a balance between the right to privacy and the obligation to provide a safe work environment for all. They need to manage this challenge proactively and be prepared when the time comes.

Screening, personal rights and disciplinary measures

When it comes to health and accident prevention, all employers have a legal obligation to ensure the health, safety, physical and psychological well-being of their employees.
They have a management right that allows them to implement a policy prohibiting the possession or consumption of drugs and/or alcohol in the workplace.

In order to justify the imposition of sanctions, they need to have a clear, unequivocal policy that employees are aware of and that will be strictly applied.

Consumption and addiction

The courts have recognized that drug addiction is a disabling dependency. Accordingly, under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, an employer is obliged to accommodate an employee with an addiction, provided it does not result in undue hardship.

What does this mean? An employer cannot dismiss an employee with an addiction, i.e., an employee who is handicapped by an addiction to drugs or alcohol on the sole grounds that the employee is not able to perform the work effectively.

When is a policy required?

There are many factors supporting the importance of instituting a policy on the use of any substance that could impair a person’s faculties. For example, it could be a “zero tolerance” policy, with severe penalties, including dismissal, for anyone who breaks the rules.

How the new policy is implemented internally will be the key to its success. All of the employees must be aware of the new policy. It is recommended that a number of employees be an integral part of the process to ensure that the information is disseminated more quickly.

Talk to one of our experts to find out more about your rights and obligations and set a clear internal policy on drug and alcohol consumption.

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