Bill 174 and the Cannabis Act, 2017

On October 17, 2018, private recreational cannabis use became legal in Canada. Also known as the Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, the new legislation enacts the:

  • Ontario Cannabis Act, 2017
  • Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation Act, 2017
  • Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017

Additionally, Bill 174 also makes changes to the:

  • Highway Traffic Act

Furthermore, with the legalization of recreational cannabis, it is each province’s task to create their own legislation around the cultivation, sale, distribution and consumption of the product. This includes regulation for both medical and commercial purposes.

As an employer, it is important to know your rights and obligations. We’re here to help you make this transition.

What does the Cannabis Act say about consumption in the workplace?

When it comes to Cannabis at Work, the following applies:

  • Cannabis is not permitted generally. The use of cannabis in provincially-regulated workplaces is prohibited in most cases.
  • Medical exceptions. It is an employer’s duty to accommodate certain employees to use cannabis in the workplace if it is required to treat a disability or medical condition. This includes employees who are prescribed medicinal cannabis to the point of “undue hardship”. And this is determined on a case-by-case basis.
  • Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) considerations. The duty of an employer to accommodate medically prescribed cannabis needs to be reconciled with the obligation to comply with OHSA requirements to maintain safe workplace.
  • Zero-tolerance. Employers are barred from imposing a zero-tolerance policy on employees who choose to consume cannabis at work. However, a prescription for medicinal cannabis does not mean an employee is able to consume cannabis during or immediately before work.
  • Drug tests. Employers do not have an absolute right to conduct mandatory drug testing in the workplace.

Protect Your Small Business

In particular, employers should ensure proper policies and documentation are in place. Especially with the legalization of cannabis, this is an important to maintaining a safe workplace. It is essential to be proactive about dealing with the inevitable issue of cannabis in the workplace.

With this in mind, start with amending current workplace health and safety policies to deal with cannabis in the workplace. You can review and revise your workplace policy regarding the presence and consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and other controlled substances.

Complimentary Advice on Bill 174

Do you feel uncertain about the changes that Bill 174 brings to your business? Call Employer Line at 1(833) 247-3650 to speak with our HR experts. We’re available to help business owners with this transition to Ontario’s changing workplace laws.