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Canadian employers facing marijuana challenges in the workplace

Brian Johnston, QC

Canadian employers are already coping with approximately 75,000 Canadians authorized to use medical marijuana. Health Canada expects that this number will increase to about 450,000 by 2024.

Employers know that medical marijuana is a psychoactive drug prescribed to deal with medical conditions and accordingly, since many of those medical conditions constitute a disability (which employers are bound to accommodate to the point of undue hardship) medical marijuana typically necessitates an assessment and accommodative approach.

The next challenge facing Canadian employers will come with the federal government’s promise to introduce legislation in the spring of 2017 to legalize marijuana. The Task Force led by former Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan has circulated a discussion paper entitled “Towards the Legalization, Regulation and Restriction of Access to Marijuana”.

In the recent US election, the State of California opted for legalizing marijuana. This puts America on the road to allowing 1 in 5 Americans to legally use marijuana.

Employers will have to be mindful of the consequences of legalization of marijuana. Detecting marijuana usage and impairment is a lot more complicated than detecting alcohol use or drunkenness. Canadian employers will want to learn more about the topic and engage with lawmakers.

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