Companies Looking to Update Substance-Use Policies Face Tricky Task

Article by Brenda Bouw, The Globe and Mail

Companies are increasingly creating substance-use policies as a means of maintaining workplace productivity

Companies are being urged to create or update their drug and alcohol policies in light of the growing use of pot for medical purposes and the pending legalization of marijuana in Canada.

The recent incident of an allegedly impaired Sunwing Airlines pilot, who was removed from the cockpit of a plane as it was getting ready to fly out of Calgary, also served as a reminder to organizations why it’s important to have a policy on how to deal with employees who are drunk or high on the job.

“My recommendation is to have one policy which deals with the use of drugs and alcohol; the thrust of it is usually that you’re not supposed to be using or under the influence at work, and then a sub-aspect that deals with prescription medication,” says Stuart Rudner, an employment lawyer with Toronto-based Rudner MacDonald LLP.

While it’s common for companies to have drug-and-alcohol policies for employees operating heavy equipment or machinery, organizations across industries are also establishing policy to help maintain workplace productivity. Substance abuse cost the Canadian economy about $40-billion in lost productivity as far back as 2002 (the latest statistics available), according to a 2006 report published by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.

Since being founded more than three years ago, Canopy Growth Corp., Canada’s largest cannabis producer, has laid out some ground rules around how employees with medical marijuana prescriptions can use the drug on the job.

Employees can’t medicate at their desks (the company has private areas for that) and they must let a supervisor know if they’re feeling unwell after medicating. Managers must also ensure the employee doesn’t operate any heavy equipment or machinery while impaired, which could put them in danger.

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