Legalization of recreational cannabis and the workplace issues employers should consider

On June 20, 2018, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that recreational use of cannabis in Canada will be legal as of October 17, 2018. The Prime Minister’s announcement came just one day after the Senate voted to pass Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act.

Upon coming into force as of October 17, 2018, the Cannabis Act will allow Canadian adults, subject to provincial and territorial restrictions, to:

  • purchase fresh cannabis, dried cannabis, cannabis oil, cannabis seeds, or cannabis plants from retailers authorized by the provinces and territories;
  • consume cannabis in locations authorized by local jurisdictions;
  • possess up to 30 grams of dried legal cannabis or equivalent in non-dried form in public;
  • share up to 30 grams of dried legal cannabis with other adults;
  • grow up to four cannabis plants per household (not per person) for personal use, from licensed seeds or seedlings from a licensed supplier; and
  • make legal cannabis-containing products at home, such as food and drinks, provided that dangerous organic solvents are not used in making them.[1]

While recreational use of cannabis remains illegal across Canada until October 17, 2018, employers should be taking steps now to develop and implement or review and revise workplace policies to specifically address recreational cannabis use. Employers should ensure its policies clearly communicate to employees what is and is not permitted.

Employers should also consider how they are going to manage the impact of recreational cannabis use on their workplaces more generally, including issues of workplace productivity, absenteeism, accommodation, motivation, consumption on breaks and workplace safety.

If you have any questions regarding the impact of legal recreational cannabis use on your workplace, please do not hesitate to contact one of the members of our Labour & Employment group.

[1] Government of Canada, Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, passed in Senate, https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/news/2018/06/bill-c-45-the-cannabis-act-passed-in-senate.html.

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