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BULLETIN: Preparing Employers for Cannabis Legalization – Wendy Ferguson

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These translations are done via Google Translate

A Commentary by Wendy Ferguson – BHRLR, CPHR

As of today, we wait with bated breath for the final ruling on Bill C-45.  A lengthy list of 34 amendments are in the works…soon to be reverted to the House of Commons for yet another vote.  The senate is scheduled to break for summer at the end of this week, however it’s anticipated that rather than delay the vote until the fall, they will stay put until this legislation is concluded.   After the law passes it is expected to take between 8 to 12 weeks to take effect, meaning we probably have 2 to 3 months until the legal market opens.  We’ve still got time to sort this out in your workplace!

What does this mean for all employers in Alberta? 

If you’re interested in understanding our Alberta government’s position on the subject, they have developed a cannabis resource segment at:   This is what the Alberta government has to say on their website about cannabis legalization and the workplace:

“Impairment at work is dangerous for yourself and others.  Talk to your employer to learn more about policies relating to impairment on the job.”

Are you ready for when your employees come and talk to you to learn more about your policies relating to impairment on the job?  The onus is on Alberta employers to prepare for the coming changes.

To keep this as simple as possible, as an employer you still have the right to prohibit the usage of cannabis in the workplace just as before.  You also always have the right to prohibit attendance at work while an employee is impaired.  After all, Alberta laws require employers to protect workers’ health, safety and welfare in the workplace.  Cannabis usage, like alcohol or other drugs, can result to progressive discipline and up to termination with just cause.  However, employers must consider if there is a dependency which would likely constitute a disability under Human Rights legislation and therefore would trigger an employer’s duty to accommodate.

What about medically-prescribed Cannabis usage?

Employees may only use prescription medication as indicated by their physician and with a valid up to date prescription.  Employees may only use medical cannabis with a license in their names from a physician.  They must inform their direct manager and HR in writing if this is the case.  An employee is not required to disclose a medical diagnosis, but she/he is required to provide a note from their doctor and a copy of the possession license for cannabis.  An employer will need to work with the individual to provide accommodation.

If the medical cannabis poses a threat or potential hazard in the workplace or if the employee is in a safety sensitive position, the employer must attempt to find alternative work for the employee up to the point of undue hardship.   Some Alberta employers have already faced these complexities, as medically prescribed cannabis usage has been legal in Canada since 2001.

What do employers need to do right now to ensure they will be compliant and protected?

The easiest way to look at this as an employer is to plan to treat non-medical usage of cannabis the same way you would treat the use of alcohol under your company’s workplace drug and alcohol policy.

You should update your existing policies to ensure that cannabis is addressed.  Attention should be placed on an employee’s duty to disclose impairment and the consequences of a policy violation.   If your company does not have the following policies, this has become a priority:

Fit for Duty Policy (Drugs and Alcohol)

Medical Cannabis and other Prescription Medication Policy

Suspected Employee Impairment Policy**

Duty to Accommodate Policy

**this policy is going to outline the procedures an employer will follow when dealing with an employee who appears to be impaired at work.  This includes calling police, paid leave, safety sensitive positions, independent medical exams, etc.

Many organizations already have these policies in place and they just need to update their policies accordingly.  If your company does not have these policies in place, please call Stick People Solutions for support.   We are currently offering a comprehensive Cannabis policy package, including an employee suspicion checklist for your front-line managers.  Any questions at all, we’d be happy to help!

Wendy Ferguson is a Human Resources Professional and owner of Stick People Solutions, providing simple, flexible and effective solutions for complex people issues.

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