Several Canadian groups are asking Ottawa to consider the impact on workplaces and to clarify the rights of both employers and employees once cannabis becomes legal for non-medical use.
People like Anita Huberman of B.C.’s Surrey Board of Trade believes that companies need guidance from the provincial and federal governments on how they should balance employee privacy with safety in the workplace.
For instance, regulations prohibit impaired workers from doing work that could pose harm to themselves or anyone else. Current rules also state that an employer cannot allow anyone to remain in a workplace if alcohol, a drug, or any other intoxicating substance is impairing their ability to perform tasks. Both rules can serve as guidelines for cannabis use for now, but they aren’t specific enough to meet the needs of a workforce that will have legal access to cannabis next year.
Employees must be able to identify the impairment without violating that person’s rights. In one case, Alberta’s Court of Appeal ruled in September that energy company Suncor could continue testing workers at its sites in the oilsands. And while testing is allowed under some specific circumstances, the rules around random testing are unclear. Of course, an employee’s actions outside of work are private from their employer, but legalization could introduce some grey area to the issue when it comes down to defining impairment when THC can be released into the bloodstream well after one consumes cannabis.
When it comes to testing, the nature of the work comes into consideration. Employers of unionized staff that don’t work in a safety sensitive environment, such as an office, don’t have the right to drug test employees, whereas, in a safety-sensitive workplace, such as a construction site, they do.
So far, unions are remaining relatively quiet on the subject, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t actively learning about the impact that legalization could have on workplace health and safety. The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour brought cannabis consultant Kathleen Thompson in to speak at its annual convention last month to help answer those questions. She recommends that a workplace that does not prepare itself for legalization could have trouble retaining employees or attracting top-level employees. Furthermore, wrongful dismissals could result in the ex-employee taking legal action. She also suggested for companies to treat recreational marijuana like alcohol in the workplace. “You wouldn’t bring alcohol to work. You wouldn’t drink at work. You wouldn’t share alcohol at work with your colleagues,” she told CTV News.
Alana seeks to see cannabis from the perspective of politicians, advocates, entrepreneurs, and consumers. She got her start with a byline in the arts and culture section and crossed over into cannabis after using it medicinally. Current projects include investigations into cannabis and wellness; entrepreneurs of the Green Rush; cannabis for athletes; and the evolution of cannabis laws and culture in Canada.