Monday, December 10, 2018
Career practitioners should be ready for questions on cannabis in the workpalce
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Career practitioners should be ready for questions on cannabis

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On Oct. 17, 2018, history was made in Canada when cannabis was legalized for recreational use. Consumers responded enthusiastically, with high demand leaving store shelves bare in the weeks after legalization.

The Cannabis Act “creates a legal and regulatory framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis in Canada.” But what does this mean for jobseekers and the workplace? Many career development practitioners are facing pressing questions from clients.

What are the regulations for Cannabis in the workplace?

CDPs should ensure they have created open lines of communication with clients who use cannabis so that they feel comfortable asking questions about workplace implications. Many clients will be unaware of the different workplace policies that exist around cannabis use, and CDPs should be prepared to discuss the implications of cannabis use for varied lines of work.

In the article Clearing the Haze: The Impacts of Marijuana in the Workplace, the top five most common concerns about cannabis and the workplace were:

  • The implications for employees operating motor vehicles
  • Disciplinary procedures
  • How it could affect work performance
  • What it means for employees using heavy machinery
  • How it could affect employee attendance

Employers are responding to these concerns in a variety of ways. In certain workplaces, employers may have more lenient regulations and policies around cannabis. For example, a policy for an office-based company might allow employees to consume cannabis on the weekend, but not during work hours.

On the other hand, if someone works as a driver for a company, the employer may instill more strict policies around the use of cannabis inside and outside of the workplace due to safety implications. They may perform drug testing or have firm guidelines regarding cannabis use.

Workplace regulations are very dependent on the type of work and the employer. CDPs should encourage clients who want to learn more about cannabis in the workplace to research the individual policies of employers.

What about medicinal uses of cannabis?

Cannabis was used medicinally in Canada long before the legalization of recreational marijuana. But under federal legislation, medical users may be wondering when they are able to use cannabis in the workplace.

Medical users have some rights that would supersede any company policies. CDPs need to know that if their clients require the use of cannabis for medical purposes, employers have to accommodate them, as it is required by law. A zero-tolerance policy could discriminate against employee who use cannabis medicinally.

Some employers may make the mistake of assuming using medicinal cannabis will impair the employee’s ability to do their job. Since cannabis can be taken in various forms and doses, the level of impairment can fall across a broad spectrum. Some people may smoke cannabis, use different cannabis oils or ingest cannabis for their medicinal purposes. Not all medicinal users get the feeling of being ‘high,’ and some people can properly function at work.

The effects of cannabis on individuals vary widely depending on the Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content or the Cannabidiol (CBD) content, frequency of use and other factors such as combined use with alcohol or other drugs. CDPs should know the different between THC and CBD. THC affects the way a person’s brain and body respond to cannabis, including the high and intoxication, whereas CBD does not produce a high or intoxication.

So, where do we draw the line?

Although many people place using cannabis in the same category as smoking a cigarette, cannabis products with high levels of THC have more similarities to the effects of consuming alcohol. A study comparing the use of alcohol versus the use of cannabis while driving directly expresses that the two both cause impairment as well as high levels of morbidity. So yes, cannabis may cause impairment. Individuals who do not have a medical prescription should know that it is not appropriate to use cannabis in the workplace, just as it would not be suitable to have a few alcoholic beverages while in the workplace.

For more information on comparing alcohol and cannabis, Public Health Ontario released an evidence brief about the subject for individuals with questions.

CDPs can help clients understand that while the recreational use of cannabis is legal, we should still treat it as an impairment. Unless there are medicinal needs for cannabis, employees should not be using cannabis in the workplace.

Hannah Fritchley
I am a third year student at the University of Waterloo studying Social Development. I am in my second co-operative placement at the Job Gym, a division of the John Howard Society of Niagara.
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Hannah Fritchley
I am a third year student at the University of Waterloo studying Social Development. I am in my second co-operative placement at the Job Gym, a division of the John Howard Society of Niagara.
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