Already Medical and Soon Recreational
Cannabis in the Workplace
by the cannabis access resource & education center

Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR), section 56 class exemptions, and the proposed Cannabis Act permit employees of persons who are authorized to possess, produce, sell, and distribute to do the same, but only while at work. And when hospital employees, health care practitioners, and approved testing facilities obtain an individual's legal cannabis, they, too, may legally possess it. These are important protections from potential prosecution as a result of performing their duties.

The Canadian Human Rights Act and its provincial and territorial equivalences oversee employer-employee relationships. The Act states it is a discriminatory practice to refuse to employ or continue to employ any disabled individual. Disabilities include dependence on cannabis and the medical diagnosis for which cannabis was prescribed.

Accordingly, patients should feel comfortable informing their employers about their medical cannabis prescription. However, many keep it private, as disclosure has not been required. Ironically, it was a Health Canada mass-mailing to everyone in the Marihuana Medical Access Program that outed many actively working patients and resulted in job losses.

Nevertheless, employees have the right to approach their employer or Human Resources personnel when requiring a location to medicate. The employer will question if medical cannabis will influence the ability to work and, if so, must provide a workplace accommodation. Employers, by law, must maintain a safe workplace and accommodate employees who are valid cannabis patients, unless it would create health and safety risks or be prohibitively expensive.

Unfortunately, in 2014, the RCMP and Corporal Ron Francis did not agree upon accommodation terms. Corporal Francis wanted permission to smoke medicinal cannabis for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while in uniform and in public. He claimed that his regular duties triggered his PTSD, the consequences of which are often suicide and violence. The RCMP's position was that members under the influence of a mind-altering drug, such as marijuana, were not permitted to perform operational duties.

Corporal Francis lost his battle with RCMP brass and subsequently with PTSD, when he took his life. The RCMP eventually launched an enhanced Disability Management and Accommodation program to provide coordinated support for ill and injured members while they recover.

It is recommended that all employers update workplace policies and train staff before the Act is enforced. Also recommended is a review of perfume and scent policies. McMaster University has already banned smoking and vaping of cannabis on its property. Cannabis smoking and vaping will also become prohibited in federally regulated places and conveyances once the Cannabis Act is in force.

It's clear that medical cannabis patients will continue to encounter challenges in acquiring adequate workplace access for some time.

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Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations
The Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations allows employees, while acting in the course of their employment, to possess cannabis for the purposes of and in connection with their employment. Job examples:
Legislation | | 2018
Canadian Human Rights Act
An Act to extend the laws in Canada that proscribe discrimination
"The purpose of this Act is to extend the laws in Canada to give effect, within the purview of matters coming within the legislative authority of Parliament, to the principle that all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated, consistent with their duties and obligations as members of society, without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered."
Canadian Human Rights Act.
Legislation | | 2018
Accommodating Medical Marijuana
Managing editor of Canadian Lawyer InHouse and Law Times, Jennifer Brown, discusses accommodation issues. For instance, in a situation where an employee indicates they require a change in their work environment to allow them to smoke cannabis during their work shift, the employer cannot automatically say no, even though there are laws prohibiting smoking in the workplace.
Article | | 2014
Accommodating Medical Marijuana in the Workplace
Stuart Rudner, founder of Rudner Law, suggests that employment accommodation, which could include modifying work schedule and duties, or a temporary leave of absence, would only be required for a valid medical patient if there is impairment.
Article | | 2016
 Cannabis Act: Bill C-45
Count down to July 2018. The Government of Canada, intending to bring the Cannabis Act into force no later than July 2018, has published many pages of information on the proposed regulations, with more to come. Discover the details. Part of the Cannabis Resource Library by The Cannabis Access Resource and Education Center.
Cannabis Resource Library | | 2018
Cannabis in the Workplace
Luc Deshaies, Partner, and Elisabeth Gauthier, Associate, Gowling WLG, advise that workplace cannabis use policies should be similar to ones in place for alcohol use. The existence of a condition justifying the prescribed medical use of cannabis, and a cannabis dependency, can both be considered disabilities. And if so, the employer must conduct an accommodation analysis which may include a last-chance agreement and the opportunity to undergo rehabilitation.
Article | | 2017
Cannabis Jobs in Canada: Who's Hiring
Scott Johnstone reports that in January, 2018, cannabis related job opportunities averaged 67 new listings per week.
Article | | 2018
Caring for Clients Authorized to Use Medical Cannabis
Nova Scotia: "Each nurse is accountable to know the process by which clients are authorized to use medical cannabis, indications for use, routes of administration, adverse effects, dosing and contraindication. Nurses should be aware of any new research or evidence relating to medical cannabis and advocate for appropriate policies.
"All nurses should advocate for continued research to establish a base of evidence for practice related to medical cannabis. The registered nurses (RN) (including the RN manager or educator) is accountable to integrate research into practice. RNs and licensed practical nurses (LPN) are accountable to evolve their practice based on evidence."
--College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Nova Scotia, College of Registered Nurses of Nova Scotia. [PDF 8p]
Guidelines | | 2017
Clearing the Haze
Human Resources Professionals Association's white paper [PDF 26p] explores four key areas:
White Paper | | 2017
Disability Management and Accommodation for RCMP Members
In April, 2017, the RCMP launced an enhanced Disability Management and Accommodation program to provide coordinated support for ill or injured members while they recover. The services include:
Information | | 2017
Everything Employers Ought to Know about Medical Marijuana
Dr. Melissa Snider-Adler explains that one of her roles as DriverCheck's Chief Medical Review Officer is to determine if there is a legitimate medical explanation for an employee's positive test and then alert the employer to safety risks.
Article | | 2017
Five Key Considerations for Employers
Daryl Cukierman and Michael Howcroft, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, in anticipation of cannabis legalization, provide a general guide for employers.
Article | | 2017
How Should Employers Prepare?
Michael Kelly and Sabrina Singh, Kelly + Singh Lawyers LLP, advise that needed additions to employer rules include cannabis use in the workplace:
Questions & Answers | | 2018
How will your HR Department Prepare for Legal Weed?
Scott Johnstone examines the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) report's for employer concerns and details HRPA's recommendations to the federal government and HR departments.
Article | | 2017
Impairment at Work
An occupation health and safety, question-and-answer fact sheet from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety:
Fact Sheet | | 2017
Cannabis at Work. A source for locating Canadian cannabis jobs, recruitment services, online industry training, and workplace impairment training.
List | | 2018
Marijuana in the Workplace: What Employers Need to Consider
Dr. Farrell Cahill answers the following questions:
Questions & Answers | | 2018
Medical Marihuana Privacy Breach
On November 19, 2013, Health Canada mailed letters to 41,514 clients of the Marihuana Medical Access Program across Canada in windowed envelope containing the letter explicitly identified the Marihuana Medical Access Program in the return address on the outside along with the name and address of the client recipient. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) received complaints concerning the mailing's impact on personal lives including loss of employment, reputational damage and personal safety. OPC concluded the complaints are well founded.
Summary | | 2018
Medical Marijuana Use in the Retail Workplace -- What You Need to Know
Derek Bumstead, VP, HASCO Health & Safety Canada Corp., gives an overview of issues arising around medical cannabis in the workplace:
Article | | 2018
Non-medical Marijuana Use at Work
Colton M. Hnatiuk, TDSLaw, points out that the employer's drug and alcohol policies need to spell out how non-medical cannabis use will be addressed in the workplace. When there is reasonable cause to believe an employee is under the influence of cannabis, the policy could allow the employer to insist on that employee taking a drug test. An employee's refusal may then be properly viewed as a serious violation, but not necessarily as a justifiable reason for automatic termination.
Article | | 2017
Preparing your Business for Legal Marijuana
Tiffany Zanatta recaps Kelowna Employer's Forum's January meeting on the legalization of cannabis and its impact on the workplace:
Recap | | 2018
Resume Writing for the Cannabis Industry
Tips and examples, from Alison McMahon, Cannabis At Work, on customizing cover letters and resumes to appeal to employers of the new Canadian cannabis industry.
Article | | 2017
Risk of Impairment from Cannabis
A guide from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety for developing successful workplace therapeutic and recreational cannabis impairment procedures. Covers:
White Paper | | 2018
Ronald Francis
Corporal Ron Francis made national headlines after he complained his workplace accommodation did not allow him to smoke medicinal cannabis for PTSD while in uniform and in public. During his memorial service, the family requested the Red Surge only be worn by Corporal Ron Francis and no other member of the RCMP.
Obituary | | 2014
Section 56 Class Exemptions
Health Canada issues class exemptions to section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) pertaining to the application of the CDSA and it regulations.
List | | 2018
Want to Work in Cannabis? Here's Where You Should Study
At the beginning of 2018, British Columbia and Ontario offered classroom courses. Online courses are starting to become available.
Article | | 2018
Weed at Work - How the Cannabis Act will Impact the Canadian Workplace
An interview with Brian Greenspan, an employment lawyer with Hummingbird Lawyers LLP, who points out that upon the expected dramatic increase in registered medicinal users, many issues will arise for employers in regards to cannabis and the workplace.
Interview | | 2017
Weed In The Workplace, A Primer for Employer Action
Tamara Ticoll, Employment, Labour and Knowledge Management Lawyer, Stikeman Elliott LLP, suggests employers take a proactive approach for:
Article | Stikeman Elliott LLP | 2018
Why Total Bans on Workplace Pot Won’t be Easy under Cannabis Act
"I had a call from a company the other day that said one of their employees was injured on the job, and as a matter of standard practice, they get drug-tested," Sandra Gogal recounted. "The results came back positive, and they said, ‘Can we fire him?’ And I just said, ‘We don’t know yet whether that was for medical purposes or not.’"
--David Gambrill.
Article | | 2018
Workplace Strategies: Risk of Impairment from Cannabis
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety's recommendations for addressing impairment in the workplace associated with cannabis and other substances. [PDF 39p]
White Paper | | 2017
Workplaces Threaten Patient Access
Founder of Cannabis At Work, Alison McMahon points out the rights and responsibilities in the workplace related to medical cannabis, plus the problems these create.
Article | | 2016