Legalization of Cannabis – How to Set Up an Appropriate Company Policy

It’s official – buying and consuming cannabis is now legal in Canada. The measure had been on the horizon for some time, disturbing some employers due to the potential consequences on the workplace. Now that it’s a done deal, here are some tips for companies to adapt.

The Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés has published a document titled “How to adapt the workplace to the legalization of cannabis”, which in particular reveals that half of organizations say they are barely or not ready to deal with this legalization and its impacts.

Defining and clearly posting the policy

This is a very first step – you need to bring the persons concerned together (human resources, legal department, staff representatives) to define a clear policy. Will you have zero tolerance or allow cannabis up to a certain threshold? And if so, what threshold? A study conducted by Human Resources of Canada’s electrical industry found that only 24% of companies in the sector had established a formal written policy on the subject. Once you have defined the main points of your policy, consider putting it down in black and white, posting it in the premises and sending it to all your employees. You can incorporate a more comprehensive policy on alcohol and drug use.

Provide for sanctions

In order to enforce the rules, they must be accompanied by sanctions. Establish a graduated system based on the gravity of the violation and any recurrences. Since consumption of cannabis can be considered to be a health and safety risk in the workplace, these sanctions can go as far as dismissal in some cases.

Training the managers

Managers need to be able to recognize the signs and effects of the influence of marijuana and know how to react. You must therefore train them and educate them on how to spot it. There can be a disproportionate appetite, red eyes, hilarity, euphoria, lowered vigilance, an alteration of memory, problems of coordination or speech…

Providing follow-up

To know if your policy is effective you need to analyze its results. Plan for regular checks, for example every two months, and a more complete assessment after one year. This will allow you to adjust certain details if needed: increase or lighten sanctions, adjust your tolerance threshold, better inform and sensitize your employees…

Understand the authorized framework for screening tests

Be aware that random or systematic screening tests (before beginning the workday, for example) are not allowed. You can only require it if you have reasonable grounds to believe that the faculties of your employee are impaired in performance of his duties, if he has been involved in a work incident or accident, or if he is resuming work after being treated for alcoholism or drug addiction. Similarly, searching personal effects or lockers is regulated.

Applying a zero tolerance for risky professions

One of the problems of cannabis is that it can affect the ability to perform certain tasks, similar to alcohol. In risky professions (such as construction or any that involves driving a vehicle or handling heavy equipment, or even in health), it can be a compromising factor. If your activity is in one of the sectors concerned, you have every interest in applying a zero tolerance and, since experts disagree on the duration of the effects of cannabis, extend it outside work hours. As an example, Air Canada has already announced that certain of its employees will not be allowed to consume cannabis, even on their holidays.

Dependency situation – supporting the employee

In cases of dependency, it is considered a disease and the consumer needs help rather than sanctions. Learn to distinguish real dependency from recreational use and offer support and treatment to the persons concerned.

What about medical prescription?

Now that marijuana consumption is legal, there is a good bet that doctors will be less hesitant to prescribe it for medical treatment, especially to fight pain or in the context of chemotherapy. Some companies have decided to include it in their coverage. Will you follow their example?

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