Canada has Legalized Cannabis with Bill C45—Here’s What it Means for Employers.

Posted in: WCB Law | Posted by Rebecca Ingram on October 17, 2018

In a historic vote on June 19th, 2018, the Canadian Parliament changed Canadian law to lift the 95-year-old prohibition on recreational cannabis. Whether you agree with the legalization of marijuana or not, the reality cannot be ignored, nor can the influence this may have on the workplace.

What Governments Are Doing:

The Cannabis Act requires all Canadian provinces and territories to develop their own regulatory system to support the pending legislation. Earlier this year the Alberta Cannabis Framework was unveiled by the provincial government, setting the stage for the legal and responsible use of marijuana by Albertans. The draft addressed issues such as the minimum age limit, buying, selling, growing, possessing, consuming and advertising of cannabis, as well as driving impairment and workplace impairment, which continues to be a work in progress.

In Alberta, the government says it will review occupational health and safety regulations before July 2018; engaging with employers, labour groups and workers to ensure the rules continue to address impairment issues. They will attempt to identify the need for and implement additional regulations and develop education and training programs.

Like Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan have engaged the public sector in consultation through surveys and feedback and have now released their own cannabis frameworks.

What Employers Should Be Doing:

It is well documented that the risk of accident and injury increases dramatically when associated with the use of, and/or intoxication from drugs or alcohol, either prescribed, legal or otherwise. The health and safety of everyone in the workplace can be affected by a single person’s behaviour while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Beyond the obvious medical impact that an accident or injury can have, there can be a tremendous impact financially on employers due to loss of personnel, loss of productivity and increased costs associated with workers’ compensation claims when a worker is injured on the job.

A drug and alcohol policy is an essential part of the Health and Safety Management Program of any organization. Ensuring the policy is current is essential to it being effective. Many employers already have policies in place to address issues related to the use of drugs and alcohol in the workplace and those that don’t should seriously consider implementing one for their own protection.

The Canadian Government has developed Workplace Strategies: Risk of Impairment from Cannabis as an information guide to help employers navigate the impact the new legislation may have on the workplace.

Where to Find More Information:

Now that cannabis has been legalized, there will undoubtedly be further information available to help with the transition but for now here are some useful links.

For general information, infographics, webinars, resources and research check out:

The government of Canada:

Conference Board of Canada: Acting on the Cannabis Act: Workplace Policy Approaches to Cannabis

Cannabis: The Numbers Behind the Smoke

The case for employers to have well-defined cannabis policies

Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan all have human rights laws surrounding drug and alcohol use in the workplace:


British Columbia:



As well as information and guidelines surrounding appropriate drug/alcohol testing on the job.

Drug Testing Links:


British Columbia:



Additionally, provincial workers’ compensation boards have policies addressing the impact of a worker’s actions while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, in terms of whether there is an acceptable claim or not. While it may seem straightforward, the process of determining whether someone has removed themselves from the course of their employment at the time of an accident can be complicated and complex.

Workers’ Compensation Policy Links:

British Columbia Policy 4.20:

Alberta Policy 02-01,Part II, Application 5, #7:

Saskatchewan Policy 3.1.1 and 3.2.6:

Manitoba Drunkeness and Impairment Policy

The changes to the marijuana laws across Canada provide a unique opportunity for every employer to review, update or establish an effective drug and alcohol policy that will ensure the safety and protection of all employees. It provides a fresh start, allowing employers to introduce or reacquaint every worker with company expectations of behaviour and the consequences of policy violations. Now that it is a done deal, it’s time to make sure you have adequately addressed substance use and abuse in your organization.

If you would like to discuss the importance of alcohol and drug policies further, you can contact us directly, during business hours, using our chat feature, by phone at 1-844-377-9545 or you can reach us by email at [email protected], [email protected], and you can always connect with us on Facebook ,Twitter , or LinkedIn.

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