With cannabis legalization in full effect, employers have had to regulate cannabis use and impairment in the workplace. Employers are responsible to ensure the health and safety of all employees at work, but of course, cannabis impairment isn’t as easy to detect as alcohol. This has left some employers scratching their heads.

Determining conclusively if someone is under the influence of cannabis is quite difficult. And impairment could be dangerous, especially for employees who perform work like construction and delivery driving, or other hazardous jobs.

Workplace Impairment

As a result of legalization, most employers have updated their drug and alcohol policies to include cannabis. Why? Employers want there to be clear rules about the health and safety of their employees. There’s also a fear that employees will come to work still impaired after using cannabis, as the effects can last well beyond the point of smoking up.

Unfortunately, we really don’t know how long cannabis impairment lasts. This is a grey area in cannabis use, and there needs to be more research done so we can test cannabis impairment rather than just its presence in the body.

Why it’s Hard to Test for Cannabis

The main problem with cannabis in the workplace is we have no way to test for impairment. Currently, cannabis tests detect the presence of THC in your system. But this doesn’t conclusively prove that you’re impaired.

Heath Canada has said that a person can typically feel the effects of cannabis for 24 hours. Of course, this varies from person to person. In a standard drug test, you can test positive for THC 28 days after having used cannabis, but this doesn’t mean you were necessarily impaired. A typical urine test screens for metabolites of THC, which linger long after the psychoactive effects have worn off. But it’s possible that a person being tested used a hemp product, many of which have trace amounts of THC.

Can Employers Dictate Your Personal Cannabis Use?

Typically, no, your employer can’t dictate what you do in your personal time. The exception is when your personal activities can affect the workplace – especially when your impairment could cause harm to yourself or others. What most employers are most worried about is the chance of lingering impairment.

Consider this: If you operate heavy machinery or drive as a part of your job and you come to work still impaired because you smoked a joint earlier, you could be putting yourself and other people at risk. This is a concern many safety-sensitive industries now have to take very seriously.

What About Medical Marijuana?

Employers do have a duty to accommodate the needs of those who are prescribed medical marijuana. Employees who use medical marijuana should be given suitable accommodation in the workplace, similar to accommodation for an employee who is on any prescribed medication. Still, a prescription for medical marijuana doesn’t entitle an employee to:

  • Be impaired at work
  • Compromise his or her safety or the safety of others
  • Smoke in the workplace
  • Have unexcused absences

If your employer doesn’t have clear rules about cannabis in your workplace, initiate a conversation. Make sure you and your employer are on the same page so you aren’t caught unaware.