Ridout Barron


Human rights concerns at work an issue in marijuana legalization

As the provinces prepare for marijuana legalization, Ottawa is discussing some of the finer points of how worker rights relate to the drug. There are many human rights concerns in the workplace related to pot, including whether workplaces will be able to test for the substance and if the law will distinguish between medical and recreational marijuana in the case of worker rights. The conversation in Ottawa is currently deadlocked, while an Alberta case about workplace testing prepares to enter the Supreme Court.

The Alberta case arose out of human rights concerns from employees at Suncor, where random drug testing was enforced. The federal government is expected to await the final results of the case before making a determination on testing for the rest of the country. Committee members tasked with making a decision on workplace safety legislation say that federal regulations likely won't be in place before the drug is legal.

Employers and workplace safety experts have a number of concerns related to this issue. Can random drug test be given to workers at "safety-sensitive" jobs, like those who use heavy machinery? Currently, no federal labour laws address this issue outside the military.

Legalization of marijuana in Alberta and across Canada is expected to be put in place in summer 2018. Currently, the only guide employers have related to this issue are legal precedents from labour arbitrators, human rights tribunals and the court. As the government works to address this issue, it is important that workers and employers alike work with a lawyer if this or other human rights concerns arise in the workplace.

Source: CTV News, "Federal committee split over marijuana drug testing legislation", Jordan Press, March 16, 2018

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