Employers get weed training at University of Calgary

Employers who are worried about their workers getting high after marijuana is legalized are going back to the classroom to get some answers.

They'll learn how to manage tokers in the workplace

Cannabis at Work, an Alberta company, will start offering courses at the University of Calgary in August, sharing advice on how to manage recreational and medical users in the workplace. (CBC)

Employers who are worried about their workers getting high after weed is legalized are going back to the classroom to get some answers.

Cannabis at Work, an Alberta company, will start offering courses at the University of Calgary in August, sharing advice on how to manage recreational and medical users in the workplace.

Karen Stokke, the company's learning manager, says some employers have a lot to learn about pot.

A duty to accommodate

"There's definitely people that have taken the time to educate themselves," she said. "I certainly think there's a gap there, though, for a lot of employers."

Karen Stokke, learning manager for Cannabis at Work, says some employers have a lot to learn about pot. (CBC)

Stokke said companies have a duty to accommodate workers who take cannabis to treat medical ailments, but the same cannot be said for recreational tokers.

"A company could have a policy that allows (consumption at work), but for the most part that's not allowed," she said.

Employers taking the new course will learn how to tell if a worker is impaired, and the implications of drug testing, which typically occurs only in dangerous workplaces.

"It's to help mitigate the risks for companies, if they have a medical cannabis user, or if they run into recreational cannabis users in the workplace," Stokke said.

Many employers worried, poll suggests

A recent survey by the Conference Board of Canada says slightly more than half of the organizations it polled are worried about the implications that legalization will have on the workplace.

The survey suggests employers are worried about workplace safety, impairment at work, increased use and testing.

Drug testing is widely considered an invasion of privacy, but the courts have allowed it under some circumstances, such as pre-hiring screens in oil fields and other hazardous workplaces.

Allison Cowan, of the Conference Board of Canada, says employers are worried about detecting workers who are high — and knowing when they'll be fit for work again. (CBC)

Still, workplace testing remains controversial and has been the subject of court challenges.

Allison Cowan, with the conference board, said employers are worried about detecting workers who are high — and knowing when they'll be fit for work again.

"While alcohol now is scientifically well understood, cannabis is not, and from one person to the next it will be a very different experience," she said.

The seven-hour course at the University of Calgary begins Aug. 23.

About the Author

Reid Southwick

Reporter

Reid Southwick spent 10 years in newspapers reporting in New Brunswick and Alberta before joining CBC in late 2017. In Calgary, he has covered business news, crime and Alberta's fentanyl crisis. Get in touch with Reid by email at reid.southwick@cbc.ca or on Twitter @ReidSouthwick.