Legal Recreational Cannabis – What Employers Should Know

With recreational cannabis consumption now legal in Ontario many employers have expressed concerns about employees using cannabis while on duty and the risks that could stem from cannabis use in the workplace.

While legal recreational cannabis consumption represents a significant change to Canada’s norms regarding recreational drug use, the passage of the Cannabis Act does not require employers to make dramatic changes to their policies, practices, and procedures regarding drug and alcohol use in the workplace. Consuming recreational cannabis in the workplace remains illegal, as does consumption in a vehicle, within 20 metres of a school or child care centre, or within 9 metres of a health facility. Although employees may choose to consume recreational cannabis in their free time, much like the consumption of alcohol, workplace consumption can be banned, and employees who choose to ignore this prohibition can be disciplined accordingly.

As recreational cannabis use increases in Ontario, employers should ensure that they have updated Drug and Alcohol in the Workplace policies that prohibit employees from being impaired by cannabis while on duty. These policies should be clearly communicated to employees to dispel any notion that recreational cannabis consumption is acceptable in the workplace.

Medical cannabis use for disability-related reasons, which has been legal for more than a decade in Canada, must be accommodated to the point of undue hardship by employers, further to their duties under the Human Rights Code. Medical use, however, is distinguishable from recreational use, and should be addressed separately in your workplace policy manual.

For more information on the Cannabis Act, visit the Government of Ontario’s website: