Marijuana in the Workplace - Simplified

[Guest Blog by Light Industrial Recruiter, Shah Gilani, Account Manager at Randstad Calgary]

Shah is also a nominee for Canada's Top 100 Recruiter Awards 2018.

With legalization around the corner for recreational Marijuana, I found myself at a loss, not knowing what this would mean for staffing firms and employers, as well as their clients and candidates. We have now crossed into uncharted waters where what was once taboo has become a common act. Thus, it is imperative to address some things that everyone should keep in mind.

Legal Status and Usage in the Workplace

  • Marijuana will be treated similarly to alcohol: employers will have the right to prohibit the use of non-medicinal marijuana and may even send workers home or prohibit them from attending if they are found to be impaired. That said, should an employee be using the substance for medical purposes, then it would be treated similarly to when an employer accommodates the needs of an employee with a disability who has been prescribed medication.
  • It is the responsibility of the employer to accommodate such needs as per provincial and federal legislation, however the duty to accommodate does have some limitations.
  • Medical consumption does not allow employees to be impaired at work and does not allow employees to compromise their own safety and the safety of others.
  • Medical usage does not extend to smoking in the workplace and smoke free laws apply (similar to cigarettes).
  • Should an employee be unable to fulfill their regular duties when consuming for medical purposes, the employer is required to search for a suitable accommodation similar to the way they would for an employee who is unable to perform their job duties due to medical reasons.  

What Does this Mean for Employers?

You must revisit workplace policies regarding drug and alcohol usage. As an employer, you are required to accommodate the needs of an employee with a disability. At the same time, you are also required to take every precaution to ensure that the workplace is a safe environment for all employees and thus can prohibit impairment in the workplace. So, where does this leave you? Well it is a sticky situation since these two policies may come across as ambivalent.

To ma ke things more difficult, defining what constitutes as impairment can be quite tricky.

Here is what I recommend:

  • For employees working in a safety sensitive position, consider moving them into an area where the usage of medical marijuana does not impose a safety risk to the employee or those around them.
  • You may even wish to request medical information or reach out to an independent medical examiner to further educate yourself and discuss possible accommodations for employees consuming medical marijuana.

Treat cases of medical marijuana similarly to cases where an employee is prescribed medication for a disability and be understanding of their needs and simultaneously cognizant of the potential risks.

Randtad Recruiter, Shah Gilani, GTA Toronto, Top Recruiter Nominee 2018

About the Author

Shah Gilani is a Staffing Specialist in the Light Industrial sector for the Calgary area at Randstad. He is also a nominee for Canada's Top 100 Recruiters 2018. To see Shah's client recommendations, login at

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