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How does employment law treat cannabis now that it is legal?

It is almost one year since it became legal to use cannabis in Canada. In April 2019, a director of WorkSafeBC, Tom Brocklehurst, answered some of the questions that both employers and employees have about legal cannabis use in the workplace. One of the frequently asked questions addressed in his comments is whether there are new WorkSafeBC regulations in place to deal with recreational cannabis.

Mr. Brocklehurst explained that there are no definitive ways of determining the level of marijuana in a worker's system, nor the level of impairment affecting the worker. Cannabis can remain present in the system of a user for days before it has metabolized. For that reason, strong policies and supervision are required to manage impairment in the workplace.

The Occupational Health and Safety Regulation of British Columbia has two primary sections that apply to cannabis use. One section requires workers with mental or physical impairments to inform their supervisors, and the employer must then ensure that the allocated duties of the worker will not put him or her or co-workers at risk. The other section states that employers must not allow impaired workers to enter or remain in the workplace.

Balancing the occupational health and safety rules and requirements to manage impairment with the human rights of workers is a challenge that often leads to misunderstandings and potential violations. Employers or employees who become involved in disputes about cannabis use in the workplace can get their questions answered by a lawyer with experience in all aspects of the British Columbia labour and employment laws. Legal counsel can explain the client's legal rights and provide advocacy throughout ensuing legal proceedings.

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