How Should HR Leaders Be Preparing for Marijuana Legalization?

With marijuana legalization coming soon to Canada, many HR leaders are feeling the pressure to get up to speed on the topic. But with so much to learn, it’s often most effective to begin your learning by seeking out advice from experts in the field.

That’s why in our upcoming webinar on marijuana legalization and the workplace, one of our featured co-presenters will be Jason Fleming. Jason is the Director of HR at MedReleaf – one of the largest licensed producers of cannabis in Canada.

During the webinar, Jason will be discussing:

  • The Canadian cannabis industry
  • Medical vs. recreational cannabis
  • Employer risks, accountabilities, and considerations
  • Managing cannabis in the workplace

For a small sample of what to expect, Jason answered a few questions to help us set the scene on what the new legislation will mean to workplaces across Canada:

Q. There’s been a lot of talk about cannabis becoming legal officially on July 1st, 2018. What’s the latest news on this? What’s actually going to happen on that date?

A. Funny enough, the government never actually committed to July 1st. They committed to the summer of 2018. Although we don’t have a definitive answer, we expect that recreational cannabis could be legalized any time this summer or perhaps in the early fall.

Q. In a survey last year 47% of HR leaders told HRPA that their top concern about cannabis legalization is workplace safety. Do you agree that should be a top concern? If not, what do you think the top concerns should be?

A. Absolutely, I believe that employers should prioritize employee and public safety during this transition. According to an in-depth Deloitte study, the percentage of adult Canadians using recreational cannabis is projected to increase to 39% from 22%.

Given that increase, I definitely think employers need to be focused on clearly establishing policies and protocols to prevent impairment in the workplace in order to minimize safety incidents and injuries.

Policy development and enforcement, employee education and training, as well as maintaining an ongoing open dialogue will be important tools for employers to utilize to help manage cannabis in the workplace.

Q. You’ve said in the past that you don’t recommend employers create a specific policy around cannabis. Can you elaborate on what your alternate suggestion would be?

A. Cannabis is only one of many substances that cause impairment and can lead to workplace safety and conduct challenges. Employers should have a plan to deal with all impairment-causing substances, including: opioids, alcohol, over-the-counter cold and sleeping medication, and others.

We recommend that employers develop a broader policy that categorizes impairment-causing substances into 4 categories:

    1. Legal, non-medical substances that cause impairment, such as alcohol and recreational cannabis (post-legalization)
    2. Illegal, non-medical substances that cause impairment, such as cocaine, heroin and recreational cannabis (pre-legalization)
    3. Medical substances that cause impairment, used legally, such as sleeping pills, opioids or medical cannabis
    4. Prescription substances that cause impairment, used illegally, such as opioid use without a prescription

Q. As legalization draws closer, many HR leaders are probably feeling a little nervous about waiting so long to take action. Is it too late to get prepared?

A. Not at all. With a concentrated effort, a workplace cannabis-management plan can be planned and executed in a relatively short period of time. Employers should focus on developing a drug and alcohol policy, training internal stakeholders (occupational health and safety, as well as front-line management), communicating their policy to all employees, and obtaining their acknowledgment:

For the full picture of how marijuana legalization will impact your organization, as well as concrete strategies you can use to prepare, make sure to register for our free webinar on Everything HR Leaders Need to Know About Cannabis Legislation and the Workplace.

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