Many workplaces have policies regarding drug use that may need to be revised when marijuana is legalized. Federal and provincial governments have established some protections regarding discrimination or illegal termination for medical marijuana use. As Alberta residents consider the legalization of recreational pot, it is important that they know their rights in the workplace should they choose to partake.

Handling marijuana at work, like most sensitive employment issues, comes down to a balance of rights and obligations. To this end, employers have a right to ask about drug use and consider it if they believe it may impair a worker and create an unsafe environment. For example, jobs that involve operating a motor vehicle will require employees to be completely free of any drugs or alcohol.

However, employers have been challenged in court on the basis of human rights when termination could not be justified by the employer. Those who cannot prove a safety risk, do not go through the proper channels or who fail to accommodate workers where possible may face legal action. If this issue arises for an employer or employee in Alberta, both should document efforts taken to resolve the issue in case it becomes a legal matter.

The legalization of recreational marijuana will be a tricky subject for workers and employers alike. Although drug use can be an occupational hazard and employers have the right to take action for the safety of workers on the job, termination for medical marijuana use has resulted in legal challenges throughout Canada. An Alberta lawyer experienced in handling employment law issues can be a helpful resource for those facing these important issues.

Source:, "A brief history of marijuana in the workplace", Sept. 24, 2017

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.