Employers Should Be Concerned as Edible cannabis is Now Legal

Recreational cannabis usage has now been legal in Canada for just more than a year. Initially, when cannabis was legalized in 2018, the products available for sale were limited to dry or fresh cannabis, cannabis plants and seeds. However, currently, the next phase of legalization is now in progress.

On Oct. 17, 2019, the Cannabis Act was revised to permit the sale of edibles, extracts and topical products containing cannabis. However, according to OHSCanada, these products would not be available on store shelves for sale until Dec. 15 based provisions that require information about any new product to be provided to the government 60 days before the product is made available for sale.

This means that employers have about 60 days to reflect on the probability of employees reporting to work impaired as they may ingest cannabis orally outside the workplace but underestimate the magnitude or duration of the resultant impairment.Impairment lasts longer with oral consumption of cannabis,such as through edibles, than usually happens with smoking.

The rates of impairment are also different with smoking, vaping and edibles. For instance, someone who orally consumes cannabis instead of smoking it will take longer to show symptoms of impairment;however, impairment will last for a longer period.

Also, it is easier to secretly use cannabis edibles, extracts or topicals compared to smoking or vaping. Due to this fact, there is a chance that employees may be using cannabis while at work once edibles and cannabis hit the shelves.

OHSCanada advises that employers who intend to manage the risks of cannabis use in the workplace should consider two basic principles.

“First, while cannabis use may be legal, that does not give employees a right to use cannabis at work, or when it may impair their mental or physical abilities at work. Employees are required to report for work fit for duty. Employers may establish policies prohibiting the possession or use of cannabis or other drugs in the workplace and requiring employees to be free from impairment while at work,” says the article.

Secondly, the article suggests that such policies guiding the use of marijuana at work may need to be applied flexibly or be subject to exceptions where an employee uses cannabis for medicinal purposes. These policies must consider people with disabilities or people who have to use medical marijuana to treat certain conditions.

Before December 15th, 2019, employers should make sure that managers and supervisors are taught to be alert for signs that employees may have used or consumed cannabis in the workplace.

“Managers and supervisors should be aware that cannabis can come in a variety of forms including edibles, extracts, or topical products. They should be prepared to enforce policies regarding the possession or use of cannabis in the workplace regardless of the form of cannabis which is used by an employee,” the article states

There are several signs of impairment, some of which may include sudden changes in behaviour, poor motor skills, disorientation, and slower perception.


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