What Cannabis Means For The Workplace

The federal Cannabis Act, (“Bill C-45”), in effect as of October 17, 2018, legalizes recreational cannabis across Canada. At the provincial level, the Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Amendment Act, 2017, commonly known as Bill 174, sets the framework for the cultivation, sale, distribution and consumption of cannabis in Ontario.

Bill 174 is omnibus legislation which enacts the Cannabis Act, 2017 and the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation Act, 2017. It repeals the Smoke-Free Ontario Act and the Electronic Cigarettes Act, 2015, and replaces them with the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017. Bill 174 also makes amendments to the Highway Traffic Act with respect to driving with alcohol or drugs present in the body.

Under Bill 174, the use or consumption of recreational cannabis is expressly prohibited in any public place or workplace and remains confined to private premises and locations. More specifically, the legislation provides that the smoking of tobacco and medical cannabis, the use of electronic cigarettes and the consumption of prescribed substances and products are prohibited in several places including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Enclosed public places
  • Enclosed workplaces
  • Schools
  • Child care centres
  • Reserved seating areas of sports arena or entertainment venues

Employers are obligated to enforce the prohibition and their responsibilities include: ensuring compliance with the applicable legislation; giving notice to employees of the prohibition; posting signs respecting the prohibition; and ensuring that an individual who refuses to comply with the law does not remain in the workplace.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers have a general duty to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of their employees.

Employers will continue to have the right to require employees to report to work sober and without any form of impairment. As well, they have the right to ban the use or possession of recreational cannabis in the workplace during work hours, including breaktimes.

However, employers should be aware that human rights law requires employers to accommodate workers who use cannabis (in its various forms) as a treatment for illness, disability and for actual or perceived addiction.

Employers should set clear policies and expectations with regards to an impairment-free workplace, including penalties for non-compliance and, depending on the type of work performed, setting out an exception for medical cannabis.

Haynes Law Firm can guide your organization through this developing area of the law. If you require assistance to ensure that your existing policies adequately cover potential issues that might arise with respect to cannabis in the workplace, contact us at info@thehayneslawfirm.com.

[*Note: This article is intended as general information only and does not constitute legal advice of any kind. This material may not be duplicated or distributed, without the written permission of Haynes Law Firm.]