Legal weed: What are an employer’s rights?
Novermber 5, 2018
The legalization of recreational marijuana under Canada’s Cannabis Act (Bill C-45) on October 17 has raised concerns about the rights of employers on construction sites—workplaces that often have inherent dangers.
Under Bill C-45, possession of 30 grams of marijuana is permitted for individuals over age 18 for recreational purposes. The Bill, however, makes no mention of intoxication at work. According to Health Canada’s 2017 Canadian Cannabis Survey, 21.5 per cent of cannabis users reported using cannabis to get high before or at work in the previous year, including 7.7 per cent who report weekly or daily use before or at work.
“It will fall to individual employers to set their own policies regarding recreational cannabis use in the workplace, subject to existing applicable legislation,” according to the law firm of Miller Thompson LLP, which prepared a brief on the issue. The applicable legislation refers to provincial employment-related laws, such as the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Saskatchewan Employment Act and B.C.’s Workers Compensation Act.
Employers face some restrictions, however. For instance, they are prohibited from searching an employee or compelling a worker to submit to a medical exam without the worker’s consent.
An employer can implement drug testing, however, under certain conditions. These include instances where the employer has reasonable cause, such as after a workplace accident, or if the employee has a known history of drug abuse. Employers are advised to seek legal advice on their rights and responsibilities regarding the use of recreational marijuana on construction sites.