Only 35% of Canadians live within 10 kilometres of a cannabis retailer
With Canada set to legalize marijuana in a matter of days, employers across the country have been tasked with determining to what extent they will monitor and restrict marijuana use among employees. And for the time being, they’re not receiving any guidance from Ottawa. The Liberal government said Wednesday that it is leaving it up to private-sector companies to implement their own substance use policies, while a report by The Canadian Press said Ottawa is still mulling how to approach cannabis use among federally-regulated workers.
BNN Bloomberg reached out to Canadian employers and professional associations to find out how workplaces are readying for one of the most significant drug policy changes in the country’s history. Here’s what some of them had to say.
“The safety of our customers and employees is our top priority. As a result, employees working in safety-critical areas at the company, including flight operations and aircraft maintenance, will be prohibited from using cannabis and cannabis products at all times, both on-duty and off-duty.
“For all employees, the recreational use of cannabis is prohibited while on-duty or in the workplace.”
-Peter Fitzpatrick, spokesperson
British Columbia College of Nursing Professionals
“As self-regulating professionals, our registrants … are held to the same standards at all times, regardless of what is and is not ‘legal.’
“We expect nurses to be fit and competent to practice safely. The standards we currently have in place already make this clear, and these standards will continue to apply after cannabis becomes legal.
Nurses must maintain their ‘own physical, psychological and emotional fitness to practice,’ according to BCCNP’s professional standards.”
-Johanna Ward, communications specialist
"Dollarama has clear alcohol and drug policies in place that prohibit their use in the workplace."
"We are, of course, sensitive to the fact that the legalization of cannabis may have an impact on workplace safety. In this context, we have reviewed all relevant policies and procedures to ensure that they are adequate, we are proactively communicating with our employees ahead of Oct. 17, and we are providing additional training, where appropriate."
-Lyla Radmanovich, media relations officer
“We would treat this the same as other legal substances such as alcohol, and our ‘fit for work’ policies apply, meaning you can’t be impaired while at work, and can’t have it on site. Note that medical marijuana has been legal in Canada since 2000.”
-Christine Marks, director of corporate communication
The RCMP and Toronto police are barring officers from using recreational cannabis within 28 days prior to reporting for work. Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa’s police services are using “fit for duty” policies, which are similar to ones in place for alcohol and don’t have a set abstinence period. Calgary’s police service will have a full abstinence policy for people in safety-sensitive positions. Canadian Border Services employees in safety-sensitive positions won’t be allowed to consume cannabis within 24 hours of reporting for duty.
“Everybody has been giving the same type of information and everybody’s interpreted it in the best way for their particular city. That’s my interpretation for why there would be such a varying scope of responses,” Ottawa Police inspector Murray Knowles said.
“Ensuring workplace drug and alcohol polices are in line with current labour laws is a priority for our union. We will fight any attempt to implement random drug testing. We will also fight any employer who tries to stop our members from using cannabis outside of working hours.
“Legalization doesn’t change the fact that our members know it’s wrong to work while under the influence of drugs.”
-Christopher Monette, director of public affairs
Toronto Transit Commission
“Put simply, employees must be fit for duty when they are on duty.
“In addition, when it comes to employees in safety-sensitive positions like operators, mechanics, managers etc., they have been subject to random testing for impairment since May 2017. This policy applies to about 10,000 of our 15,000 employees and tests for alcohol, narcotics, cannabis and other substances.
“The TTC is not interested in what employees do on their own time. This is no different than our policy for alcohol.”
-Stuart Green, senior communications specialist
"Unifor has a substance abuse policy designed to support employees in their efforts to remain free of the negative effects of alcohol and drugs, including cannabis."
"Alcohol and other impairing substances including cannabis are not permitted at Unifor workplaces. Despite this prohibition, Unifor remains mindful of its legal obligation to accommodate use of medical cannabis for treatment of an underlying disability, where circumstances support such accommodation. Unifor does not seek to use its policy to police the off duty conduct of its employees and is confident that existing legal tools are adequate to address possible workplace impairment."
-Kathleen O'Keefe, national communications representative
"WestJet has updated its Alcohol and Drug Policy in preparation for the legalization of cannabis on October 17. With the utmost priority placed on safety, the use, possession and distribution of cannabis will be strictly prohibited on company premises, company worksites, while on duty and at company social functions. Furthermore, any employee in a safety-sensitive position or other position as specified are prohibited from using cannabis while on and off duty at WestJet.
"We believe these changes reflect our reputation as an industry leader in safety and our expectations that all employees report fit for duty and remain fit for duty at work."
-Morgan Bell, public and media relations advisor
Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)
"Our employees are expected to conduct themselves professionally, ethically and safely in the course of performing their job duties, which includes not being impaired while at work by any substance, including cannabis.
“In all Ontario workplaces, employees have a duty to adhere to the Ontario government’s cannabis legalization rules listed here. Any claim for compensation after an injury at work where cannabis usage is involved would be reviewed on a case by case basis."
-Christine Arnott, public affairs manager
Compiled by Arturo Chang, Polina Lake, Jeanie Tran and Michelle Zadikian
Cannabis Canada is BNN Bloomberg’s in-depth series exploring the stunning formation of the entirely new — and controversial — Canadian recreational marijuana industry. Read more from the special series here and subscribe to our Cannabis Canada newsletter to have the latest marijuana news delivered directly to your inbox every day.