Cannabis report examines Canadian workplace implications

Tuesday August 13, 2019
Written by The Conference Board of Canada
August 13, 2019 – The impact of cannabis legalization on Canadian organizations is the subject of a report released today by The Conference Board of Canada, ahead of the one-year mark since cannabis legalization in Canada on October 17.

With the world watching, Canadian businesses have been leading the way by taking an active approach to managing the implications of cannabis on the workplace since legalization in the fall of 2018, but more remains to be done.

"Our research looked at employer concerns about cannabis shortly after legalization," says Monica Haberl, a senior researcher for the "Acting on Cannabis" report. "We found that more than two-thirds of respondents felt they were prepared for legalization—a much higher proportion than just six months before."

An impressive 76 per cent of organizations had updated their policies related to cannabis use ahead of legalization, she says.

While considerable work has been done by employers, "not all of the kinks have been ironed out," says Haberl. "The majority of responding organizations don’t have a definition for impairment within their workplace, which means that even though employees know they have to come to work unimpaired, they might not fully understand what that requires."

Lack of clarity for employees points to areas for continuous improvement such as education programs. "It’s one of the simplest gaps to close. Cannabis education offers a practical approach and can be tailored to suit the needs of safety-sensitive workplaces as well as those without serious safety concerns," says Haberl.

According to the survey results, only about a third of organizations in the sample said they would directly provide employees with education or materials on cannabis use.

While it’s too early to tell what the long-term effects of legalization will be, what’s clear is that Canadian employers and policymakers are breaking new ground and setting the example for the rest of the world.

Additional findings from "Acting on Cannabis" report:
  • Fifty-two per cent of highly safety-sensitive organizations have introduced zero-tolerance cannabis policies.
  • While one in five organizations says they are concerned about problematic substance use in the workplace (six per cent being extremely concerned), 60 per cent of organizations say they are not concerned.
  • 60 per cent do not have a definition of impairment.
  • Some of the top concerns that employers continue to grapple with include workplace accommodations and alcohol and drug testing.
More findings will be released at the Cannabis at Work: One Year Later event on October 15, 2019 in Toronto, when the Conference Board of Canada will be releasing further cannabis-related research on alcohol and drug testing, medical cannabis, and productivity and engagement in the workplace.

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