Now that recreational marijuana is legal in Canada, its citizens are sure to become far more cannabis-literate. Discussion of cannabis consumption already has taken over the airwaves, where etiquette experts are weighing in with tips for dinner parties, and the do’s and don’ts of instagramming gatherings where people are smoking or vaping marijuana. It won’t be long before wide swaths of the populace are able to grasp expert-level nuances, like the difference in pot’s effects according to its varied strains.


Here are some current best practices to keep in mind when implementing a cannabis workplace policy. 

cannabis in the workplace

1) Refine the existing impairment policy. As cannabis use is complex, simply wrapping it into an existing workplace impairment policy isn’t enough, says the CCOHS. It can be difficult to detect how cannabis will impact each individual, given it can be consumed in several ways (smoked, vaped, edibles) and may contain varying levels of chemicals (THC, CBD, CBN, CBC, CBG and so on) with differing effects. A workplace policy should respond and react to these unique scenarios, advises the CCOHS.

2) Make the consultation inclusive. Involve the right people—including human resources, human-rights experts, lawyers, management and staff—to ensure a thorough and inclusive cannabis policy, suggests research and policy analyst Shawna Meister from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA).

It’s the kind of policy where a number of people need to be involved in order to make sure that it’s legally sound but also balances disciplinary measure with supportive measure.

3) Think in terms of balance. Prepare a balanced policy that meets the legal requirements (including maintaining a safe work environment and ensuring the Duty to Accommodate under the Canadian Human Rights Act), while offering support and recourse measures, adds Meister.

4) Educate employees and open communication. Simply distributing a policy to staff isn’t enough, advise both the CCOHS and CCSA. According to a recent Ipsos survey, just 18% of working Canadians say their employers have communicated expectations around recreational cannabis, whereas 55% of managers say their employees understand the rules.

Clearly, there’s a disconnect. Employers must ensure their employees understand the organization’s rules and regulations around cannabis use, and preferably make sure they do in person, says the CCOHS. It’s up to the employer and employee,” says Toronto lawyer Caryma Sa’d. “If there is a relationship of trust and open dialogue, I think that these issues can be more easily navigated.” Observe to enforce. Employers should be on alert for disruptive behaviour related to substance use (be it cannabis, alcohol or any other drug). Observing staff and training management to do so, is key, says the CCHOS. 

Workplaces have to be able to respond and respond effectively. Whether that impairment is from cannabis or not. It’s going to help break down a lot of stigma. When people start asking questions and having that conversation, [we] are going to learn a lot.

The Canadian government has announced the legalization of marijuana for non-medical use. The rapid and significant changes to the legal status of marijuana raise new questions and challenges for Canadian employers. Here, we provide a general overview of the most important things employers should know about marijuana in the workplace:


The possession, production and trafficking of marijuana are prohibited under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, except where authorized by exemptions or regulations, such as those for medical marijuana. The Government of Canada has announced the legalization of recreational use of marijuana, effective on October 17, 2018.


No. Employers will have the right to set rules for non-medical use of marijuana in the workplace in much the same way that employers currently set rules for use of alcohol. In particular, employers may prohibit the use of marijuana at work or during working hours and may also prohibit employees from attending work while impaired. Workplace rules regarding non-medical use of marijuana may be enforced through the application of the employer’s progressive discipline policy.


Yes. The duty to accommodate, as required by provincial and federal human rights legislation, extends to disabled employees who use medical marijuana. These employees are to be accommodated in the same way as an employer accommodates any other disabled employee who has been prescribed medication. Accommodation is also required for employees who may have an addiction disability. However, the duty to accommodate is not without limits.


Human rights legislation requires that a disabled employee be accommodated. What, precisely, does this mean in the context of medical marijuana?

medical marijuana

  • A prescription for medical marijuana does not entitle an employee to be impaired at work;
  • A prescription for medical marijuana does not entitle an employee to compromise his or her safety, or the safety of others;
  • A prescription for medical marijuana does not entitle an employee to smoke in the workplace;
  • A prescription for medical marijuana does not entitle an employee to unexcused absences or late arrivals;
  • The employer is, however, required to attempt to find suitable workplace accommodation for disabled employees who have a prescription for medical marijuana use, just as would be required for any other disabled employee with a medical drug prescription.


Employers may need to revisit workplace policies that address drug and alcohol use, with attention to two competing obligations: on the one hand, employers have a duty to accommodate disabled employees, and medical marijuana is used to treat medical conditions that can constitute a “disability”.  On the other hand, employers must take every reasonable precaution to ensure the safety of their workplaces and they continue to have the right to prohibit impairment on the job. Assessment of impairment at work may prove to be the most difficult aspect of designing and implementing policies regarding use of marijuana, as testing for drug and alcohol use remains one of the most contentious contemporary issues in Canadian workplace law.


Can I consume recreational cannabis prior to, or while at work? No. [The company] is responsible for the well-being of all our people in the workplace – intoxication or impairment in the workplace is unacceptable and legalization of recreational cannabis does not change that. Impairment or intoxication is also strictly forbidden while operating any [company] owned motor vehicles.

Recreational cannabis is treated like any other controlled substance, such as alcohol, and the purchase and consumption (in all forms) both publicly and privately is regulated by Provincial Legislation and the Cannabis Act.

Can I share or sell cannabis at work? No. This is inappropriate and would be grounds for discipline or termination.

Can I accept or give gifts of edible cannabis products? No. Sale of cannabis edible products and concentrates for sale will not become legal in October 2018.  Since they remain illegal products, they are prohibited to give or receive as gifts.