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Ontario's Human Rights Commission releases guidelines on how to balance rights around pot legalization

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has released a policy statement on cannabis and the Human Right Code because the focus on the legalization of recreational cannabis has created confusion about the laws that govern the use of medical marijuana or how people with an addiction to cannabis are treated.

Issues of human rights are at stake with confusion about medical marijuana at home and in the workplace

A flowering cannabis plant is seen at Blissco Cannabis Corp. in Langley, B.C., on October 9, 2018. The Ontario Human Rights Commission has issued a policy statement to help guide people around the rights of medical cannabis users. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has released a policy statement on cannabis and the Human Rights Code because the focus on the legalization of recreational cannabis has created confusion about the laws that govern the use of medical marijuana.

"Well, we need it because it's clear people are somewhat confused," explained Renu Mandhane, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, on CBC's Metro Morning.

Cannabis in the workplace

Mandhane said the number one question people have is about cannabis use in the workplace. She said in many ways, the rules haven't changed. People who use cannabis for a medical purpose or have an addiction have rights under the Human Rights code, but given the changes to the legal landscape they felt it was important to put out some clear guidance.

"The first thing that employers and employees should know is that the general expectation is that people don't come to work impaired," said Mandhane​.

With all the talk about the legalization of recreational cannabis, there may be some confusion about the use of marijuana in the workplace and at home. We clear up some of those issues when I speak with Ontario's Human Right's Commissioner. 8:15

"If they're a medical user of cannabis, they'll still be prohibited from being impaired in safety sensitive positions and if they're a medical cannabis user, they may be entitled to accommodation," she added.

Mandhane​ said employers need to create an environment where people will feel comfortable disclosing their medical cannabis use because it's still a medication or drug where there's a lot of stigma.

Housing challenges more nuanced

When it comes to cannabis and housing, Mandhane​ said the rules for smoking and vaping mirror the tobacco use rules.

"You can smoke and vape in and around your residence, but not in common areas. But if a condo or an apartment bans recreational cannabis, there have to be accommodations for people who use medical cannabis."

Mandhane​ said another issue being brought to their attention is competing rights situations....when one resident says they use medical cannabis and another resident says they have an allergy to cannabis, or suffer from asthma.

"That's where the housing provider is obligated to look at both people's needs and try to come up with a solution. And both people need to cooperate and be flexible."

The Ontario Human Rights Commission's Renu Mandhane says recreational cannabis users have no rights under the Human Rights code. (CBC)

As a recreational cannabis user, you have no rights under the Human Rights code. The policy statement strictly applies to medicinal marijuana users, anyone who has an addiction to marijuana, and people who are affected by cannabis smoke or vapour.

Mandhane says policies implemented by property management or employers around recreational marijuana use do not raise any issues around human rights laws.