What is the Cannabis Act?

Bill 174, or the Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, effectively legalizes recreational cannabis in the province of Ontario. The legislation enacts the:

  • Ontario Cannabis Act, 2017;
  • Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation Act, 2017;
  • Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017; and
  • Makes amendments to the Highway Traffic Act, 2017.

The Bill is a response to the federal government’s legalization of cannabis consumption – through the Cannabis Act. Furthermore, it serves as the provincial framework for regulating the cultivation, sale, distribution and consumption of both medical and commercial cannabis in Ontario.

How does the Smoke-Free Ontario Act affect your business?

Specifically, the decriminalization of cannabis is of particular interest to Canadian employers. While cannabis brings concerns for impairment at work, it is important to note that recreational cannabis use is not be permitted in workplaces. However, employers may need to accommodate the use of cannabis in the workplace if an employee requires it to treat a disability or medical condition. An employer can be required to accommodate a disabled employee who has been prescribed medicinal cannabis, up to the point of “undue hardship”. This is determined on a case-by-case basis. Moreover, the duty of an employer to accommodate an employee’s medical needs must be done in compliance with Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). This means, understanding how this fits within OHSA requirements to maintain safe workplace.

Furthermore, employers cannot impose a zero-tolerance policy on cannabis consumption in the workplace. At the same time, a prescription for medicinal cannabis does not necessarily mean an employee can be under the influence while on shift. Lastly, employers do not have an absolute right to conduct mandatory drug testing in the workplace.

How can employers protect their business?

Now that recreational cannabis consumption is legal, employers should start with policy implementation. This means, having the proper policies and documentation in place to deal with cannabis at work.

With this in mind, start by amending your current workplace health and safety policies. You can do so by following workplace protocols regarding the consumption alcohol, cigarettes and other controlled substances.

Unlimited 24-hour advice on Bill 174

Understanding the terms and requirements of Bill 174 can be confusing. If you have any questions about compliance with Bill 174 and the OHSA, we can help. Call our free employer advice line at 1-888-216-2550.