Canada: Medical Marijuana Use In The Workplace

An employee's legal ability to use cannabis for medical purposes was confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2015 in the decision  R v. Smith1.  As of August 24, 2016, the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations2 (the "Regulations") replaced the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, and establishes the current legal framework that enables patients to obtain authorization to possess cannabis (marijuana) for medical purposes.  The Regulations outline:  

  1. who may possess cannabis (section 3); 
  2. limits on the amount of cannabis that may be possessed (section 6); and
  3. the medical documentation required to qualify for cannabis use under the Regulations (section 8).

With the proposed Cannabis Act looking to legalize recreational marijuana in Canada in July of 2018, employers are wondering how the new legislation will affect their workplaces.  Once passed, the Cannabis Act will permit Canadians who are 18 years or older to:

  1. possess up to thirty (30) grams of cannabis; 
  2. share up to thirty (30) grams of cannabis with other adults; 
  3. purchase dried or fresh cannabis from a provincially licensed retailer; 
  4. grow up to four (4) cannabis plants; and 
  5. make cannabis-infused food and drinks.  

In the meantime, cannabis remains illegal other than for medical purposes.  As the Cannabis Act bill moves through the legislative process, it is likely that a separate medical cannabis system will be maintained following the legalization of recreational cannabis.  Although these provisions may be altered prior to July 2018, it is clear that employees in all types of industries will have greater access to marijuana. 

Under the proposed Cannabis Act, employees seeking accommodation will still be required to obtain a prescription to utilize cannabis for medical reasons. The prescription ought to outline:

  1. the practitioner's given name, surname, profession, business address and telephone number, the province in which they are authorized to practise their profession and the number assigned by the province to that authorization;
  2. the patient's given name, surname and date of birth;
  3. the address of the location at which the patient consulted the practitioner;
  4. the daily quantity of dried marijuana, expressed in grams, that the practitioner authorizes for the patient; and
  5. the period of use (specified as a number of days, weeks or months, which must not exceed one year, beginning on the day on which the medical document is signed by the practitioner).

It is important to note that strict application of zero tolerance rules, without consideration of accommodation needs,  do not often withstand scrutiny.  A Zero Tolerance Policy may offend The Human Rights Code ("The Code")3 in circumstances where individuals may be legitimately using marijuana for medical purposes.

Employers can manage cannabis for medical use the same way as accommodation for other prescription medications.  Further, cannabis use for medical reasons is classified as a disability under The Code, which provides that employers have a duty to accommodate such employees up to the point of undue hardship.

However, medical use of cannabis does not give employees a free pass to be impaired while at work, particularly where their impairment may endanger their own safety or the safety of their co-workers.  Employers and employees still have an obligation under occupational health and safety legislation4 to maintain a safe working environment.  In particular, employees in safety sensitive positions must inform their employers if they are to be using medical cannabis.

So what does that mean for employers?  Basically, employers can develop workplace rules regarding the use of medical cannabis as long as appropriate accommodation in line with The Code is provided (see our article, "Non-Medical Marijuana Use at Work" for more information).  The policy can be modelled after any existing policies dealing with prescription medication and ought to:

  1. communicate employee entitlements and acceptable uses at the workplace;
  2. define "impairment" and "under the influence"; and
  3. outline disciplinary procedures for breaches of the policy.

It is recommended that a medical use of cannabis at work policy be constructed in consultation with any health and safety committee to ensure employees have input in the policy, in accordance with The Workplace Safety and Health Act and its accompanying regulations.  Some options that should be explored with the committee are:

  1. alternatives to smoking the medication,
  2. smoking it in designated areas,
  3. using the medication at designated times (scheduled breaks, lunch, etc.), and
  4. restricting situations employees can use the medication (while in company uniform, in view of the public, in a company vehicle, or in the vicinity of customers, clients or other employees).

Should an employee disclose medical marijuana use, the disclosure is to be treated confidentially.  If disclosed, employers have the right to obtain certain information about the employee's needs, without getting into a specific diagnosis, such as:

  1. Do they have proof of their prescription?
  2. When, or how often, will they need to take the medication?
  3. How much of the medication will they need to take?
  4. Where will they be taking the medication?
  5. How long do they anticipate needing to take the medication?
  6. Will they be able to safely carry out their assigned duties while taking the medication?
  7. What is the prescribed method of ingestion?

The case law continues to evolve regarding marijuana use in the workplace, and will continue to evolve with the Cannabis Act coming into force in 2018.  This will no doubt lead to further contentious issues between employers and employees, including elements of discipline, accommodation, and various other workplace policies. 

Employers with strong workplace policies and procedures, which take into account Human Rights legislation, the current Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations, and the proposed Cannabis Act, will be well-positioned to educate employees of their workplace responsibilities and expectations before the proposed Act becomes a reality. Educating employees and management on the policy changes and how they are to be administered is key.


1 R v. Smith, 2015 SCC 34

2 Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations, SOR/2016-230

3 The Human Rights Code (Manitoba), C.C.S.M. c. H175

4 The Workplace Safety and Health Act, C.C.S.M. c. W210

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Dale & Lessmann LLP
Roper Greyell LLP – Employment and Labour Lawyers
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Dale & Lessmann LLP
Roper Greyell LLP – Employment and Labour Lawyers
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions