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What do Employers Need to Know about Cannabis Edibles in the Workplace?

By Maria Tassou, Pallett Valo LLP

In October 2019, approximately one year after recreational cannabis became legal in Canada, changes were made to the Cannabis Act by way of regulations dealing with edible cannabis, cannabis extracts and cannabis topicals.

Under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act employers have an obligation to ensure they maintain a safe workplace. They should be aware that the effects of impairment through the consumption of edible cannabis last several hours longer than vaping or smoking. If an employee consumes edibles hours before starting their shift, they may still be impaired when they show up to work. Employees who consume edibles may have slower reaction times, reduced ability to focus and may become sleepy. This can impact their ability to operate machinery or motor vehicles, posing challenges for safety-sensitive workplaces. The Criminal Code makes impairment while driving a serious offence, regardless of whether it’s caused by alcohol or cannabis. There is still zero tolerance for impaired employees driving road-building machines or commercial vehicles, which include those that require a class A to F licence or a Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration (CVOR).

It can also be diffcult for an employer to know if an employee brought cannabis-based edibles into the workplace as they can resemble brownies, candies or cookies.

Now that cannabis-based products have become legal, employers should review and update their existing policies. Updates may cover workplace safety issues, productivity, absenteeism, accommodation, and consumption of cannabisbased edibles during lunch hours or breaks. Employees need to be trained on new workplace policies. Managers and supervisors need to be taught to recognize signs of impairment in the workplace and how to address these issues. Employees need to know that being impaired in the performance of their duties through consumption of a legal substance is still impairment and can lead to disciplinary action or termination.


Maria Tassou

Maria Tassou

GGI member firm
Pallett Valo LLP
Law Firm Services
Mississauga (Greater Toronto), Canada
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Pallett Valo LLP is one of Ontario’s Top 10 Regional Law Firms. The firm practices in the areas of business law, commercial litigation, commercial real estate, construction, insolvency and corporate restructuring, employment and labour, and wills, estates, and trusts.

Maria Tassou is a member of the Employment and Labour Practice Group. Her practice focuses on employment law, administrative law, workplace investigations, management training, and privacy law. Maria also serves as Privacy Officer for the firm.


Published: Labour Law Newsletter, No. 08, Spring 2020 l Photo: Evgeniy - stock.adobe.com

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