Safety first, cannabis second – Lexpert Magazine

Damian Rigolo

Feb 5, 2019

With the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada, employers now face the challenge of implementing policies to regulate its use by employees – both at and away from the workplace. In a recent article in Lexpert Magazine, writer Sandra Rubin examines the impact of the legalization of marijuana on Canadian companies and organizations, particularly those that employ people in safety-sensitive jobs. To set the stage for her discussion, Rubin consults Damian Rigolo, a partner in Osler’s Employment and Labour department, to gain insight from a legal perspective.

According to Damian, legalizing the use of recreational cannabis “is not a licence for impairment or inappropriate conduct in the workplace.” He goes on to explain that organizations do not have to tolerate recreational marijuana use in the workplace, just as they don’t put up with employees smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol while on the job, and suggests that employers handle cannabis impairment at work the same way they would handle alcohol impairment. While it isn’t criminal conduct, Damian says, “bad behaviour can still very well be disciplinable conduct in the workplace, up to and including termination of employment.”

Rubin then reviews the case law related to random drug or alcohol testing in Canada, concluding that it’s “close to impossible” for Canadian employers to do random drug testing. She also discusses the policies that various organizations have put in place, including safety-critical companies like airlines and law enforcement agencies.

Learn more about how various companies are addressing the issue of cannabis and the workplace by reading Sandra Rubin’s full article “Safety first, cannabis second” in the January 2019 issue of Lexpert Magazine.