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Cannabis Legalization – The New Reality for HR and HSE Executives | Cannabis Learning Series

You’ve been to the seminars. Now it’s time to act.

Cannabis legalization will be here before we know it and reports show that 71% of Canadian businesses are not prepared. Lack of preparation may create a lot of unnecessary and possibly costly headaches for companies of all size, across the country. It’s not going away and so this is something every company needs to address.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Ben Franklin

There are three key steps that you need to take in order to prepare your organization.

Step 1 – Update your Drug & Alcohol Policy / Procedures

If you don’t have a Drug & Alcohol policy in place you need one. I’m surprised by how many companies don’t have one. If you do have one, you need to make sure it is up to date and current reflecting the changes to legalization of recreational cannabis. You can’t enforce the rules if you don’t have any in place. Not having an up to date Drug & Alcohol policy with associated procedures may open up the window for all kinds of potential costly legal issues.

Step 2 – Train your Supervisors & Employees

Once your updated Drug & Alcohol policy is in place your next step is to train your executives, managers and supervisors. It’s important that they are educated on employee and employer rights and responsibilities as well as duty to accommodate and impairment awareness. We also believe that it is critical that your senior managers are educated on cannabis itself. There is a lot of misinformation and perceptions about cannabis due to the stigma attached to being a “pot head”.  It’s important, especially for your executive and senior leaders to know about both medicinal vs recreational marijuana, THC vs CBD, effects on the body, new laws and impairment related to cannabis use.

Educating your entire employee base is also critical so that they know what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. I’ve heard stories of people thinking that once cannabis is legalized they can smoke a joint on their lunch break or if they get an authorization from their doctor they can use cannabis whenever they want. Again misinformation is dangerous. In most workplaces you can’t go out on your lunch hour and drink three beer so why do you think you’d be able to “get high” on your lunch break? In order to minimize your liability you need to educate employees on the importance of being Fit For Duty or Fit To Work depending on which term your organization uses.

Step 3 – Incorporate a Prevention & Awareness Campaign

Now that you’ve updated your policies and procedures and initiated a training program the next step is to activate a Prevention & Awareness campaign so that you can remind your employees the importance of maintaining a safe and healthy workplace. It also allows you to emphasize the fact that being Fit For Duty / Fit To Work is expected every single day.

The number one goal of promoting a safe and healthy workplace is so that you can minimize the risk of workplace incidents but what it also does is that is can help limit your liability. If you’re actively training and promoting workplace safety it may reduce your legal exposure if an incident does take place.

There is an additional step to consider which will arise and it requires companies to address their Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) as you will have employees asking about coverage for medicinal cannabis. This in my opinion is something companies can deal with after the first three steps are complete.


So the time to act is now. You’ve heard about it, maybe you have been to a seminar, read the articles and hopefully you are already addressing at least step one. Regardless of your situation I highly recommend that you set some time aside now to get a plan in place so that you are confident that your company is prepared to deal with cannabis legalization.