Ask a Lawyer: How will the legalization of marijuana change workplace norms?

Ask a Lawyer: How will the legalization of marijuana change workplace norms?

Ask a Lawyer: How will the legalization of marijuana change workplace norms?

With the legalization of cannabis imminent, employers across Canada are looking into if and how the drug will affect their workforce.

As we have no real ‘measuring stick’ for the consumption level of marijuana, as we do with alcohol, businesses are very much in the dark about how to manage the situation.

We spoke to Michael Hancock, partner at Harris & Company LLP, who explained how the new laws will, or should, change our perceptions of cannabis.

“Marijuana will now basically become like alcohol, and we need to treat it like alcohol,” he explained. “Obviously, it’s not okay to come to work drunk, but at the same time it’s not our business what employees do in their personal time, at home and after work.

“Think of it like this; you wouldn’t be shocked if a departing employee was given a nice bottle of wine as a gift – but what if they were given an ounce of really good weed? It might be strange, but this is the way we’re going to have to start thinking about it.

“I was in someone’s office, for example, last week and they had an unopened bottle of scotch in their cabinet. They were saving it for the moment the business reached a certain level of success, to pass amongst their employees in celebration. Now imagine, under the new legislation that this was a sealed package of marijuana. It’s the same, legally, but is still very challenging to norms of workplace behaviour.

All of this is increasingly challenging for employers, Hancock explained to us, not to mention the issues surrounding paying for addiction treatment.

“Employers using third party disability managers are being pushed to pay for treatment,” he added. “This means not only are you paying for an employee’s leave, but you’re also contributing to treatment fees.”

The uncertainty surrounding the impact cannabis will have on workplaces is just one of the topics Michael and our other speakers will address at HRD Canada’s Employment Law Masterclass – held in Vancouver on March 5th.Find out more information on speaker line-up and agenda, here.


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