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The Effects of Cannabis Legalization in the Workplace

Lines blur when legalization looms ahead.

How do the rules change when HR leaders and management are confronted with the issue of working legal cannabis into their workplace policies?

Not a lot but not a little, company specialists seem to say.

Shelley Brown is a senior associate and labor law specialist with Steinberg, Title, Hope, and Israel LLP. He believes that all companies should have a written policy in place regarding drug and alcohol impairment.

“Impairment is the starting point,” Brown says to Liz Braun in an interview for the Toronto Sun.

Because cannabis is such a complex topic to handle, some employers might see fit to address it unofficially and superficially— “don’t come to work high” — or simply group it with alcohol in their company policies. But to do so is to risk company liability to lawsuits and court challenges.

Brown notes that company policymakers must address both safety-sensitive and non-safety sensitive dependencies on cannabis.

Heading Brown’s advice, company policies should not have grey areas or unclear language when it comes to safety and non-safety sensitive positions. Rather, they ought to articulate policies that successfully weave between issues faced by users of medical and recreational marijuana.

Companies should also tactfully address any issues regarding users of medical marijuana who use cannabis to treat illnesses or alleviate pain as these persons have certain legal protections relating to their medical usage. In these cases, accommodations must be made to present a safe workplace to any and all employees who depend on cannabis for health reasons.

In Canada, where cannabis usage for non-medical and medical reasons is legal, employers are encouraged to use the same standard for non-medical marijuana use as alcohol use at work. However, provincial and federal human rights legislation extends to medical marijuana users, who must be accommodated by their employers within reason. (Limitations are considered on a case-by-case basis by employers.)

As for workplace guidelines regarding employee gatherings after work or at social work functions, it seems that these policies are best left to the employers’ discretion.

How can employers, managers, or HR enforce company policies on cannabis use in the workplace?

As any good law enforcement agent would know, impairment from cannabis is trickier to detect than alcohol and is under different protections in countries or states where it is legalized (e.g., medical entitlement to use marijuana and constitutional rights to privacy).

Luckily for companies whose duty it is to regulate cannabis usage for their employees at work, Otorize offers the perfect solution for detecting cognitive impairment.

Its breakthrough algorithm, backed by scientifically proven cognitive science, identifies within seconds whether the user is cognitively impaired from alcohol, cannabis, drugs, or other substances.

If your company needs a “checkpoint” app to test employees’ impairment before or during work, Otorize gets the job done — for free.

Check out Otorize’s feature on The Times of Israel and give us a shoutout on Twitter. Alternatively, follow us on LinkedIn and Instagram for relevant coverage on cannabis use that concerns you. And don’t forget to download the app on your Android device!


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