Cannabis in the Workplace: 2nd-hand effects of pending marijuana legislation

Bill C- 45, the Bill which legalizes cannabis, is scheduled to come into force on July 1st, 2018.

By Gladys Johnsen – According to Norm Keith, a leading defence lawyer, national expert on OHS issues, and partner with Fasken Martineau (based in Toronto), “Fewer than 30% of employers have any policy for drugs and alcohol in the workplace. So, in the main, they are not ready. There’s nothing in C-45 covering safety in the workplace.” OHS professionals and their employers need act now to examine what, if any, policies are in place and amend them to address the new legislation. Moreover, the employer needs to communicate the policy so that all workers know and understand the implication of the changes. Part of the education plan should include what the testing protocol will be and any disciplinary action that may result.

This major change represents both an opportunity and a challenge to BC’s employers as it can be combined with a comprehensive modernization of the employer’s substance abuse policies. The challenge will be to create a program which will be supported by a court system that has been very inconsistent in decisions regarding the random testing of workers. Larger employers with more financial and human resources may be more pro-active in updating their programs. However, all employers, regardless of size, should understand the risk of not acting before July 1, 2018 to address a major social change in Canada and its resultant impacts on workplace health and safety.

Norm advises employers do three things in order to become prepared:

  1. Develop a policy against coming to work high
  2. Prepare an educational plan
  3. Establish a testing and disciplinary policy

For more information about Marijuana in the workplace, please contact the Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC. 1.604.795.9595 or