Ridout Barron


Legal marijuana leads to business law questions for employers

The upcoming legalization of recreational marijuana has led to many legal questions. Among these is the question of how employee use of the drug should be considered under Alberta business law. Human resources professionals across the province and the country are considering how use or abuse of the drug should be considered under workplace regulations, especially those where use of marijuana could be a safety or productivity risk.

The Human Resources Professionals Association published a 25-page report detailing its concerns over what legal pot may mean for workplaces. Among the issues are concerns about what specifically constitutes impairment and when an employee can be tested for use of the drug under provincial business law. While there are varying opinions on how serious of a change legalization will present for workplaces, the HRPA believes that the first few legal cases presented in court may set important precedents in clarifying legal issues like disciplinary procedures, termination and discrimination regarding pot-using employees.

Alcohol has caused similar challenges in Alberta human resources and legal circles, especially in workplaces where safety issues are less explicit. Measuring productivity with and without a substance, such as a drink over lunch or some marijuana before work, is very challenging for employers. Currently, the only test for impairment with marijuana simply detects the presence of THC, which may be active in someone's system up to 48 hours after using the drug.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees cautions employers that any drug tests or policies that emerge from legalization must be in line with human rights laws. Alberta employers may be faced with legal challenges if they present major policy changes as a result of the change. Those who are seeking business law guidance in this or other issues should contact a lawyer for guidance.

Source: globalnews.ca, "Canadian companies fret about hazy rules around legal pot use", Cassandra Szklarski, Dec. 14, 2017

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