With the legalization of cannabis (we’ll refer to it as marijuana), many business owners are wondering how they should manage it in the workplace and question if they be impacted.
Business owners need to be prepared to be impacted and to manage employees who may choose to use marijuana. Some studies report that 10% of Canadians do smoke recreational marijuana. Medical marijuana is legal in Ontario and some employees may be using it for medical purposes. New policies need to be developed that address both medical and recreational marijuana.
This policy needs to state your position, the expectations of the employees, how the policy will be implemented, and the possible discipline if the policy is not followed. The legalizing of marijuana doesn’t mean that recreational usage is acceptable at work; just like the consumption of alcohol is not acceptable.
Some key considerations in your policy should be:
- The definition of workplace. Does the definition need to be broadened to include the office, client locations, working from home, driving or travelling?
- Accommodations for employees who require medical marijuana or have an addiction.
- Whether exceptions to recreational marijuana use, like exceptions for alcohol use, will be permitted in the following situations:
- during breaks or at lunch hours;
- at client functions;
- at company functions; or
- if there will be exceptions to using different forms of marijuana
- When is the usage of marijuana to be disclosed
Once your policy is in place, educate employees on the various strains of marijuana, the different effects, the dangers of dependence, the financial cost of marijuana, and the impact on function, impairment and legal implications. Explain why the use of marijuana at the workplace should be discouraged.
Clearly communicate what the workplace policy is and how it will be implemented. If there is screening, be sure to explain why screening or testing is necessary.
To ensure that all employees attend the training, consider offering the training as a lunch and learn, or as a mandatory webinar. Then ask all employees to sign a waiver indicating that they attended the training and understand the policy.
Train all managers on how to monitor and manage employees’ fitness to work with respect to the usage of marijuana at work.
The benefits of marijuana for pain management and seizures has been proven. However, the use of marijuana can also mask some physical and mental challenges. Consider offering a Wellness Program in the workplace which can help employees manage stress, mental health, and improve their overall physical health.
Facts about Cannabis
Impairment Effect of Cannabis on the Body
When inhaling cannabis, the chemicals in the smoke pass from the lungs into the blood, which carries the chemicals throughout the body and to the brain. The effects of cannabis are delayed if it is ingested instead of smoked, because the chemicals must first pass through the digestive system. Users have varying sensitivity to the effects of THC. Regardless of method of consumption, the effects are the same.
In general, effects may include: (Health Canada, 2016a)
- dizziness, drowsiness, feeling faint or lightheaded, fatigue, headache
- impaired memory and disturbances in attention, concentration and ability to think and make decisions • disorientation, confusion, feeling drunk, feeling abnormal or having abnormal thoughts, feeling “too high”, feelings of unreality, feeling an extreme slowing of time
- suspiciousness, nervousness, episodes of anxiety resembling a panic attack, paranoia (loss of contact with reality), hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that do not exist)
- impairment of motor skills, and perception, altered bodily perceptions, loss of full control of bodily movements, falls
- dry mouth, throat irritation, coughing
- worsening of seizures
- hypersensitivity (worsening of dermatitis or hives)
- higher or lower blood levels of certain medications
- nausea, vomiting
- fast heartbeat
As Health Canada (2016a) states “Using cannabis or any cannabis product can impair your concentration, your ability to think and make decisions, and your reaction time and coordination. This can affect your motor skills, including your ability to drive. It can also increase anxiety and cause panic attacks, and in some cases cause paranoia and hallucinations.” These effects have been noted to last as long as 24 hours. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (2017) reports that there is moderate evidence of a statistical association between cannabis use and the impairment in the cognitive domains of learning, memory and attention (acute cannabis use). Effects of cannabis for an average user and average dose will vary.
Cannabis and Addiction
Many people believe that cannabis is not an addictive drug; cannabis addiction is possible. Currently classified as Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD), the estimated chances of becoming addicted to cannabis after lifetime exposure is 8.9%, which is considerably lower than for cocaine (20.9%), alcohol (22.7%) or tobacco (67.5%). So overall, cannabis is a much less harmful drug, however there is a small risk of addiction tied to chronic use.
Cannabis Use in Canada
Stats Canada shares the following statistics:
- Over 42% of Canadians have used (or tried) cannabis in their lifetime
- Over 12% have used cannabis in the last year
- Almost 7% report Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD) in their lifetime