Why every employer must address cannabis in the workplace

As businesses across Canada plan to reopen and employees prepare to head back to the office, restaurants or project sites it is important to put the topic of cannabis in the workplace back on the agenda. The topic is even more critical in the workplace today than pre-pandemic. In a September 2020 survey conducted for Mental Health Research Canada, almost 30 per cent of Canadians say their cannabis usage has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Here are just some of the reasons why every employer must address cannabis in the workplace.


Addressing cannabis in the workplace is not only critical to safety sensitive industries where safety is a concern but to all industries which need to ensure their workplace policies are inclusive. Employees may use cannabis for medicinal reasons and should not be stigmatized in their workplace. Employees should feel comfortable talking about cannabis use with their employer. Employers and HR professionals need to understand they have a duty to accommodate medical cannabis patients up to the point of undue hardship just like other prescription medications.


As cannabis is still new to many even after almost three years of legalization, many still don't understand how cannabis can cause impairment. Although people have been smoking cannabis for years even before legalization, industrialized edibles are new to everyone. Many don't understand that effects can be felt up to 12 hours after consumption. Imagine a bus driver consumes an edible at home the night before. They have every right to do this just like alcohol. But, what if they have an early shift the next day - they may still be impaired. Although employers may feel it is not their responsibility to educate their employees on the effects of cannabis, they have a vested interest to fulfill their duty of care obligations and ensure safety of their employees, the public and their environment.

Reduce liability

Not addressing cannabis in the workplace will leave employers exposed to employer liability risk. When organizations do not train their people managers or HR teams to talk about cannabis in the workplace. For instance, there could be a case where an employee will file file a complaint for an unfair performance evaluation due to cannabis use, or, a wrongful termination lawsuit due to cannabis use.

Has your employer addressed the topic of cannabis in your place of work? Do you think this is something that employers should talk about in a more open and inclusive way? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Learn more

Want to learn more about how to address cannabis in the workplace? Join us on June 23, at 12 p.m. MDT, for a free event hosted by CPHR Alberta where you can learn more about this topic and what you can do in your organization to promote a safe workplace. Register to attend this free event.

The panel discussion will include Karina Karassev, Co-Founder & COO of RCU - Responsible Cannabis Use, a cannabis education company that provides an e-learning course CannEd - which covers cannabis in the context of the workplace. James Wigmore, a forensic toxicologist who will talk about drug testing in the workplace and Shannon Friesen, Principal and Sr. HR Consultant at ACTivate HR who will talk about how to talk to employees about cannabis in the workplace.

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