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Countdown to Legal Cannabis in Canada Continues

Posted in: WCB Law | Posted by Rebecca Ingram on November 7, 2017

On July 1, 2018, in a little over 8 months, the Canadian government is going to legalize cannabis. Whether you agree with the legalization of marijuana or not, the reality can not be ignored, nor can the impact this may have on the workplace. 

What Governments are Doing:

The proposed Cannabis Act requires all Canadian provinces and territories to develop their own regulatory system to support the pending legislation. Last month the Alberta Cannabis Framework was unveiled by the provincial government, setting the stage for the legal and responsible use of marijuana by Albertans. The draft addressed issues like the minimum age limit, buying, selling, growing, possessing, consuming and advertising of cannabis, as well as driving impairment and workplace impairment, which continues to be a work in progress.

Before July 2018, the Alberta government says it will review occupational health and safety regulations and work with employers, labour groups and workers to ensure the rules continue to address impairment issues and additional regulations, as well as education or training programs that may be developed.

Like Alberta, other western provinces have engaged the public sector in consultation through surveys and feedback to help define their own cannabis frameworks. At this time, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia have not yet released their proposed frameworks.

What Employers Should Be Doing:

It is well documented that the risk of accident and injury increases dramatically when associated with the use of, and/or intoxication from alcohol or drugs, either prescribed, legal or otherwise. The health and safety of everyone in the workplace can be affected by a single person’s behavior while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Beyond the obvious medical impact that an accident or injury can have, there can be a tremendous impact financially on employers due to loss of personnel, loss of productivity and increased costs associated with workers’ compensation claims when a worker is injured on the job.

A drug and alcohol policy is an essential part of the Health and Safety Management Program of any organization. Ensuring the policy is current is essential to it being effective. Many employers already have policies in place to address issues related to the use of drugs and alcohol in the workplace and those that don’t should seriously consider implementing one for their own protection.

Where to Find More Information:

British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba all have human rights laws surrounding drug and alcohol use in the workplace:

Human Rights links:

British Columbia: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/law-crime-and-justice/human-rights/human-rights-protection/disability.pdf

Alberta: https://www.albertahumanrights.ab.ca/publications/bulletins_sheets_booklets/sheets/protected_grounds/Pages/drug_and_alcohol_dependencies.aspx

Saskatchewan: http://saskatchewanhumanrights.ca/learn/fact-sheets/employment-discrimination-and-the-duty-to-accommodate

Manitoba: http://manitobahumanrights.ca/v1/education-resources/resources/reasonable-accommodation.html

As well as information and guidelines surrounding appropriate drug/alcohol testing on the job:

Drug Testing Links:

British Columbia: http://www.bchrc.net/drug_and_alcohol_testing

Alberta: http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/amh/Page2717.aspx

Saskatchewan:http://saskatchewanhumanrights.ca/pub/documents/policies_guidelines/Drug%20and%20Alcohol%20Testing%20Guide%20-%20Final%20Jan2011.pdf

Manitoba: http://manitobahumanrights.ca/v1/education-resources/resources/policies-pages/policies-a-8.html

Additionally, the provincial workers’ compensation boards have a policy addressing the impact of a worker’s actions while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, in terms of whether there is an acceptable claim or not. While it may seem straightforward, the process of determining whether someone has removed themselves from the course of their employment at the time of an accident can be complicated and complex.

Workers’ Compensation Policy Links:

British Columbia Policy C3-22.40c: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/employment-business-and-economic-development/employment-standards-workplace-safety/workers-advisers-office/factsheets/rscm_volume_ii-pdf-en.pdf

Alberta Policy 02-01,Part II, Application 5, #7: https://www.wcb.ab.ca/assets/pdfs/public/policy/manual/printable_pdfs/0201_2_app5.pdf

Saskatchewan Policy 3.1.1 and 3.2.6: http://www.wcbsask.com/about-wcb/policy/

Manitoba Drunkeness and Impairment Policy 40.10.20.10: https://www.wcb.mb.ca/sites/default/files/files/44_10_30_10DrunkennessIntoxication.pdf

The imminent changes to the marijuana laws across Canada provide a unique opportunity for every employer to review, update or establish an effective alcohol and drug policy that will ensure the safety and protection of all employees. It provides a fresh start, allowing employers to introduce or reacquaint every worker with company expectations of behaviour and consequences of policy violations. So don’t get caught up in the controversy, use this time to make sure you have adequately addressed substance use and abuse in your organization.

If you would like to discuss the importance of alcohol and drug policies further, you can contact us directly at [email protected], [email protected], by phone, at 1-844-377-9545 or you can connect with us on Facebook ,Twitter , or LinkedIn.

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