HR cannabis policy and watching the watchers

With the legalization of cannabis, employers, companies and employees now wonder how to deal with this new chemical in the workplace.

Gary Goodwin

You didn't run, you didn't lie

You knew I wanted just to hold you

And had you gone you knew in time we'd meet again

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For I had told you

Got to get you into my life

— Paul McCartney’s love song to pot

With the legalization of cannabis, employers, companies and employees now wonder how to deal with this new chemical in the workplace. Although HR departments already deal with alcohol, nicotine and other recreational drugs (and I refer to HR staff using these drugs to handle the stress), cannabis challenges them even further.  


Each province has its own rules regarding cannabis. Ontario’s Cannabis Act (soon to be renamed) prohibits recreational cannabis within the workplace. And, unlike medical cannabis, there is no “workplace cannabis” category exception.


Some federal departments have passed their own requirements. RCMP members cannot use cannabis within 28 days of a shift, while some police use a fit-for-duty criteria. The Armed Forces use much more specific terms. Here, members must not partake eight hours before performing any duty. This increases up to 24 hours if they are handling explosive ordnance. I naively thought that all ordnance was explosive, but ordinary ordnance includes things such as jeeps. Explosive ordnance includes things such as ordnances that explode.

For the rest of the provinces, one main criteria involves a safe work environment. Companies need to ascertain what THC levels would be appropriate for their particular type of work. However, we must add a note of caution and we must watch the watchers. Legal counsel must ascertain if cannabis policies slant more toward enabling cannabis use by particularly hard-working, overly stressed and easily swayed HR departments — and staff in general.


Look for memos containing chaotic numbering systems

If the cannabis memo from the HR department starts with a rambling introduction and the rest of memo includes numbering systems similar to . . .

                        Firstly . . .

                        Nextly . . .

                        Thirdly . . .

                        Finallidly . . .

. . . rest assured that the duty to draft the memo should be sourced out to another department.


Unusual training locales

Training seminars in tropical locations are nothing new. However, if HR insists upon going to local tropical greenhouses and conservatories, then the business planning sessions may not deal with your particular business and may deal more with hydroponics. Insist upon the rooms with no windows and open doors for informative PowerPoint presentations instead.

The HR department becomes overly familiar with legislation

In this situation, not only does the HR department know the federal and provincial cannabis legislation better than the legal department, but HR also knows far more about regulations regarding neonic pesticides and fertilizer licensing procedures. Once again, it’s facilitating hydroponics.


Occupational health and safety compliance increases substantially

Normally, the proper use of safety glasses, white work overalls and plastic gloves should be encouraged as this increases workplace safety. However, if you see such a person wearing all this equipment in your downtown law office and you know someone already removed all the asbestos from the ceiling, then you must investigate for a potential grow op.


All of the alcohol and drug policies have been reviewed and expanded


A review of existing policies needs to cover the proper and legal use of cannabis. If the next policy iteration includes new a process, various unknown ingredients and ends with the words “bake at 350 for 45 minutes,” then rest assured this is not a work-related process. This could be a chocolate-brownie-cannabis-delivery-system process.


Staff benefits have been amended

Increasing staff benefits provides organizational motivation. If your organization includes a cafeteria, then be observant for subtle changes. A cafeteria express line that only handles munchies enables cannabis use.  


International travel

Needless to say, travel to the U.S. with cannabis will be prohibited. Recently, U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a statement that Canadians working in the cannabis industry, if they are travelling to the U.S. for purposes unrelated to their work, should be able to enter the U.S. without hassle. Prior to this, admitting to using cannabis, investing in cannabis companies or even having a Bob Marley song on your smartphone could get you banned. Be on the lookout for new travel costs under the designation of “mule reimbursement.”


Cannabis use within certain limits

Other organizations have a range of eight hours, being fit for duty or 28 days depending upon the function. If the rule then becomes more like no partaking within eight metres of the front door, then the rules may be a bit too lenient.


Discriminatory use

Continued use of medical cannabis depends once again on the job function. If the cannabis impacts on the person doing the job are unknown, then the employer only has to go so far in the duty to accommodate. However, look out for any discrimination if the HR policies mandate cannabis use for those in highly stressful, unpredictable and treacherous roles such as dealing with people constantly, such as HR staff. You may have a discriminatory policy.


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