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Will the legalization of cannabis actually affect our workplace?

On October 17, 2018, recreational marijuana will officially be legal in Canada. Since the vote in favour of Bill C – 45, The Cannabis act, many conversations have been stirring regarding how this new federal law might affect our workplaces. We wanted to address this by clearly laying out what this new law means and what it does not mean.

In summary, the legalization of recreational marijuana in Canada, means the following:

  • As long as you’re over the age of 18, you are free to possess (up to 30 grams) and use marijuana
  • As long as you’re over the age of 18, you are free to grow cannabis (up to four plants per household)

As a result of this legalization, many have begun fearing that weed consumption will become a ‘free for all,’ yielding dramatic changes in our country. This is not what the new law suggests. In fact, there are several regulations around marijuana consumption that address these fears. For example:

  • Smoking weed is no different from smoking; In Alberta, smoking is banned in public places. This will not change for marijuana
  • Driving high is illegal, and marijuana cannot be within reach of anyone in a vehicle while driving (impairment driving laws have been updated accordingly)
  • Impairment is impairment, whether it comes to operating a vehicle or showing up for work. Being high on the job will be tolerated no more than showing up to work drunk

While the Alberta Government has stated ‘protecting workplaces’ as a top priority in the legalization process, some ambiguity still remains around how impairment in the workplace will be better and more specifically addressed. Gaps like this have the potential to leave workers vulnerable and susceptible to risk. So while these regulations are an excellent start, there is more work to be done to ensure that employees are safe and protected.

It’s very important to note that employers cannot, under any circumstances, deliver consequences (dismission, discipline, suspension, intimidation, penalty, etc) to employees who choose to enjoy or support marijuana use within a legal capacity.

 

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