• Legalized Recreational Marijuana in Alberta - Is Your Workplace Prepared?
  • November 6, 2017
  • On April 13, 2017, the federal government tabled two new cannabis-related bills before Parliament, Bill C-45: An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts and Bill C-46: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. If approved, Canada would become the second country in the world to fully legalize recreational marijuana.

    Bill C-45 creates a strict legal framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of dried and fresh cannabis, cannabis oil, as well as seeds and plants for personal cultivation. Specifically, Bill C-45 seeks to:

    • Deter criminal activity by ensuring a legal supply is available for purchase;

    • Protect public health through strict product safety and quality requirements;

    • Restrict access and prohibit marketing to youth; and

    • Permit individuals over the age of 18 to:

    ○ Purchase cannabis from regulated distributors;

    ○ Grow up to 4 cannabis plants at home;

    ○ Carry up to 30 grams of legal dried cannabis (or its equivalent in non-dried form); and

    ○ Share up to 30 grams of legal dried cannabis (or its equivalent in non-dried form) with other adults.

    It should be noted that the sale of edible cannabis products is a very complex matter and as such it is not included in the proposed legislation. The federal government has indicated that the sale of edible cannabis products will remain illegal until such time as they are able to develop and publish regulations that will address the potential health and safety risks.

    As a result of the permissions granted by Bill C-45 and the difficulty in accurately testing for cannabis-induced impairment, Bill C-46 was introduced to amend and strengthen Canada’s impaired driving legislation and provide defined legal limits for drug impairment. Under this proposed legislation, testing and prosecution would become easier in order to better protect the public from both alcohol and drug-impaired driving.

    While the federal government anticipates that this proposed legislation will come into force no later than July of 2018, much of the fine print will be left to the provincial and territorial governments. As such, these governments are now scrambling to develop policies and regulations relating to distribution, marketing, sale, use and workplace safety, as well as deal with jurisdictional issues relating to enforcement and penalties. Over the past few weeks Alberta and Ontario became the first provinces to release their proposed frameworks. Similarly, many companies are also taking proactive measures to prepare for the effect of the impending changes caused by this legislation on its workforce and workplace safety.

    As with alcohol, companies have the right to prohibit the use of marijuana on company property, during working hours, and where further restrictions would be justified (e.g. safety-sensitive positions). Companies can be proactive without compromising their accommodation requirements, business connections or employment relationships.

    Companies should take this opportunity to:

    • Educate those in management, human resources and others about how to deal effectively and legally with marijuana use by employees, off duty and on duty;

    • Review and update alcohol and drug policies so that marijuana is covered even when it becomes legal; and

    • Review and update alcohol and drug policies to ensure that they control alcohol and drug use and ensure safety in the workplace to the fullest extent.