Cannabis policy in high demand for Saskatchewan businesses

Amy Groothuis spoke at Innovation Place in Regina on Wednesday about how the impact of cannabis legislation is expected to be felt across the country - especially among employers.

Lawyer Amy Groothuis says most employers should have an impairment policy before September

The Town of Kindersley chose to terminate an employee after fielding complaints that he was using marijuana, for which he had a prescription, while he was driving a town vehicle. (Facebook photo)

With cannabis expected to be legalized in July, some businesses are worried about the impact it might have on safety-sensitive industries like oil and mining. But Lawyer Amy Groothuis says even offices and retail stores should be concerned with updating workplace policy according to legislation.

Groothuis spoke at Innovation Place in Regina on Wednesday about how the effects of legal cannabis will be felt across the country — especially among employers.

"Although in no way do we think that the sky is going to fall and everyone is going to show up to work smoking cannabis, it's just a really good opportunity for workplaces of all sizes and all areas to make sure they're meeting best practices," said Groothuis, a labour and employment lawyer at Regina's Miller Thomson law firm.

Groothuis said all employers should lay out clear expectations when it comes to eating, drinking or smoking cannabis.

"There's a sense that the only employers who should be concerned about this is the safety-sensitive ones," she said. "I think it's broader than that."

Amy Groothuis spoke to employees at Innovation Place in Regina on Wednesday about what cannabis policy might entail within the workplace. (Trent Peppler/CBC News)

Areas of consideration include:

  • Work performance expectations
  • Occupational Health and Safety issues
  • Disciplinary actions
  • How to accommodate employees who disclose medical use or addiction

Workers are obligated to disclose medical or dependency issues to their workplace, according to Chartered Professionals in Human Resources in Saskatchewan, but it's up to the employer how to accommodate those issues.

Workplace safety

The Saskatchewan Workers Compensation Board recently helped organize a conference series to address cannabis questions and concerns for business owners.

It included legal advice and ways businesses can navigate both medicinal and recreational pot use by employees.

"This issue affects every organization," said Kevin Mooney, director of prevention for Saskatchewan Workers Compensation Board.

"There's not a lot of case law around this so it's kind of unknown at this point."

Work testing woes

Scientists are still trying to figure out a no-fail test to pinpoint recent cannabis impairment, which creates uncertainty for testing at work.

For now, both legal and workplace safety experts say employers should have a 'roadmap' of what to do if you suspect an employee might be impaired.

"You want to make sure that you have everything set out step-by-step so that in that scenario you know who is going to do what," said Groothuis, adding that it requires a delicate balance between the worker's rights and the employer's responsibility to provide a safe workplace.