Controlling cannabis use in your workplace

Here in North Vancouver, the earliest signs of spring aren’t the only thing in the air. Increasingly since legalization, cannabis is making its way into Canadian public spaces – and possibly into our workplaces as well. How can you control what substances your employees bring into your workplace?


A well-drafted substance use policy is your most powerful tool in taking control of what your employees put in their bodies (or their pockets) while performing work for you. We recommend a substance use policy that addresses employees’ use of illicit drugs as well as legal substances like cannabis, alcohol, and certain mind-altering prescription drugs. What your policy says will depend on what kind of workplace you operate in. If you have a sedentary office environment, your substance use policy may be different from if you have employees performing manual labour, using heavy machinery, or working with vulnerable clients.  A discipline policy gives the employee notice of what will happen in the event that they breach the substance use policy, and will prove indispensable in the event you need to dismiss an employee who refuses to play by your rules.

Employment Contracts.

The best-drafted policies will not help you if they’re not terms of your workers’ employment. The best way to implement policies effectively is to annex them to a properly drafted and implemented employment contract. This way you can change the policies as your business requires, without having to change the employment contract every time.

Watch out though…

Increasingly cannabis is used to treat symptoms of physical and mental disabilities. Applying your substance use policy to a disabled employee can be a form of unwitting discrimination on your part, inviting Human Rights Tribunal difficulties for your business. If you know or suspect that your employee may be taking cannabis in treatment of something like chronic pain or anxiety (both are possible disabilities), you’ll need to take care to balance the employee’s medical needs with the safe operations of your workplace. This is the kind of situation where a bit of expert advice in advance can avoid a whole host of legal problems down the road.

Although cannabis may seem to be ubiquitous now, there are simple steps you can take to nip this issue in the bud when it comes to your workplace. (Sorry, we couldn’t resist the bud reference.) If you’d like to have substance use policies implemented in your workplace, please get in touch with us.

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