by Natalka Haras

There are changes to Canada’s Cannabis Regulations (the “New Regulations”) to establish rules for the legal production and sale of three new classes of recreational cannabis products: edible cannabis, cannabis extracts, and cannabis topicals will come into force on October 17, 2019.

The legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada occurred on October 17, 2018 under Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act. At that time, cannabis edibles, extracts, and topicals were not legalized for sale (although individuals could make their own for non-commercial purposes).

Once the New Regulations are in effect in October 2019, the Government of Canada is predicting that new products will begin to appear in online and physical stores in mid-December 2019.

While the Cannabis Act legalized recreational cannabis in Canada, the federal government delegated the responsibility for implementing and overseeing what this means to each of the provinces and territories. Each Canadian province and territory has passed its own laws, policies and regulations regarding the growth, sale, purchase, possession and consumption of recreational cannabis. 

The products that will be available under the New Regulations may mean that there is greater use of cannabis amongst Canadians. The Government of Canada has prepared several resources for Canadians to better understand the changes.

Employers have both the right and the obligation to ensure a safe workplace – and employers are also entitled to expect employees to be productive while at work. At the same time, employers must respect and comply with laws, including human rights and privacy legislation. Since recreational cannabis can be treated like any other legal drug or substance, employers will not likely need to make drastic changes to their policies and operations.

As a Canadian employer you should:

  • Review and amend your current substance use (drug and alcohol) policies to reflect the legalization of recreational cannabis if you have not already done so;
  • Clearly communicate expectations around fitness for duty with employees. Educate employees on policies, including any changes to policies, and on their rights and responsibilities, including the process related to accommodation for any substance addictions, and for medical cannabis users; and
  • Train managers and HR professionals to identify and address possible impairment in the workplace.

The impact on employers of recreational cannabis legalization is still emerging in Canada. Employers should pay attention to the laws for each of the provinces and territories in which they operate. Employers with operations across Canada looking to develop “national” policies and procedures may consider complying with the most employer-restrictive (employee-friendly) legislative approach to prevent issues.