As of October 17, 2019, the production and sale of edible cannabis, cannabis extracts and cannabis topicals became legal. Although fresh and dried cannabis flower, seeds, plants, and oils have been legal for the past year, the legalization of edible cannabis may pose new difficulties for employers.

First, the prolonged effects of edible cannabis heightens concerns for employers that workers may come to work impaired.  Inhaled cannabis usually takes effect in a matter of seconds or minutes, while it can take between 30 minutes and two hours after ingesting cannabis to feel an effect. Similarly, while inhaled cannabis typically lasts up to 6 hours, the effect of an edible product could last up to 12 hours and the side effects could last hours longer.

Second, edible cannabis comes in a variety of forms (gummies, chocolate, etc.), which makes it more difficult to identify in the workplace. Furthermore, it may be more challenging for employers to detect whether a worker is impaired from ingesting cannabis. Unlike inhaled cannabis or the consumption of alcohol, edible cannabis may have no identifiable odour. 

So what can employers do to address these potential problems?

Clearly written and consistently enforced workplace drug and alcohol policies are an employer’s best tool to address impairment in the workplace. The drug and alcohol policies should explicitly outline the employees’ obligations under the policies.  Like with alcohol, the policy should stipulate that employees are not permitted to consume, possess or sell cannabis products (including any edible cannabis products) in the workplace and that they must be fit for duty free from impairment by drugs or alcohol at all times.  Employers are also well advised to conduct training sessions or staff meetings ensure that their drug and alcohol policies and expectations have been clearly communicated to everyone within the organization.

Along with educating employees on their obligations, employers should also educate employees (especially supervisory and managerial employees) on how to identify someone under the influence of cannabis in the workplace.  

Developing and implementing the necessary policies and practices to manage the workplace effectively with legalized cannabis will take time and expertise. The lawyers at CCPartners would be happy to help you determine what is necessary and effective for your organization.

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.