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It's official - Canadians woke up this morning to the first day of legal cannabis!  
 
Marijuana enthusiasts are celebrating and others may be shaking their heads, but regardless of your feelings about this new development, if you own a tree company or manage/supervise a crew, it's critical that you understand the implications of legalization in relation to the workplace . 
 
Canada is only the second country in the world - and the first G7 nation - to allow a nationwide marijuana market.    As a result, the eyes of the entire world on on us right now and the effects of legalization will inevitably be VERY closely monitored and scrutinized over the coming months.  
 
Personal feelings on the subject aside, employers have legal responsibilities under Canadian criminal law and the Occupational Health and Safety legislation to provide a safe workplace and ensure public safety, especially where there is a bona fide safety element to the specific job in question.   Failure to take action to prevent workplace incidents can result in serious liability.
 
In the event an incident does occur and cannabis usage is involved, employers AND supervisors can be fined for failure to prevent workers from being under the influence of drugs, charged with criminal negligence and can even face jail time.    A tragic example of this is the Metron Construction casewhere four employees were killed when scaffolding collapsed during work on a Toronto apartment building.   In addition to other safety infractions, a toxicology analysis revealed that three of the employees and the site supervisor all had marijuana in their system in levels consistent with recent ingestion.  This lead to the company’s project manager being sentenced to 3.5 years in prison and Metron being fined $750,000.
 
There is no reason to panic, but employers should be proactive in their risk management approach and be properly equipped to protect both their employees and their companies.  To adequately prepare for increased cannabis usage in your workplace, ensure you have a clearly outlined drug policy and remember to store all your documentation in a single location so that it is readily available should an incident arise and you’re pressed to prove due diligence.
 
To learn more about your responsibilities and how to mitigate and manage the risks associated with employee cannabis use, visit the resources below:
 
 

Clearing the Smoke on Cannabis

HOWATT: Cannabis in the workplace requires some planning

HOWATT: Does cannabis use increase the risk for performance complacency in the workplace?

Eight ways to prepare your organization for the legalization of marijuana

Cannabis legalization – Learn What Will and Won’t be Legal in Ontario

Impairment and Workplace Health and Safety

A Review of Workplace Substance Use Policies in Canada: Strengths, Gaps and Key Considerations

Five tips for employers creating a Marijuana Policy at work

Legal Marijuana is Going to Change the Canadian Workplace

“Clearing the Haze” – The Impacts of Marijuana in the Workplace

CSA Group – Workplace policies on substance use

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