Teaching Managers How to Navigate Cannabis in the Workplace

Article by Bill Howatt and Monica Haberl

Teaching managers how to navigate cannabis in the workplace BILL HOWATT AND MONICA HABERL

It’s been less than a year since recreational cannabis was legalized in Canada, and it’s too early to know whether managers are seeing more employees coming to work impaired. Coupled with this uncertainty, more employees may be requesting medical accommodations as the stigma around cannabis is reduced and the medical community learns more about such treatments.
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Awareness

Given how important the relationship between managers and those who report to them is, managers need to understand their rights and obligations, as well as those of their employees, when it comes to cannabis use.
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Recreational cannabis is a drug that, when used before or during work, could compromise employees’ safety and performance. Managers need to understand this. The unique challenge with cannabis is that it is the only drug that can legally be used both recreationally and medically. It is therefore important for managers to be aware of the impact of recreational use and be knowledgeable about what roles in their workplace may be eligible for medical accommodations.
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Accountability

Employers are accountable for ensuring that organizational policies and guidelines around medical and recreational cannabis are easily accessible, well understood and frequently communicated to employees.
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Beyond this, employers are encouraged to help employees feel comfortable asking questions about these policies without fear of stigma or repercussion. In many cases, the first point of contact for these conversations is the employee’s manager. The quality of the manager-employee relationship can play an important role in the level of trust employees have to ask questions as well as raise concerns about peers who may be impaired in the workplace.
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It’s essential for employers to be clear about how they want managers to be able to manage cannabis in the workplace. This includes details such as:
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· Understanding the organization’s substance use policy and how to support employees who come forward with a substance-use issue;
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· Reinforcing workplace policies on cannabis use;
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· Being able to recognize cannabis impairment and know how to best intervene;
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· Understanding the employer’s duty to accommodate medical cannabis use and the manager’s role in the accommodation process;
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· Knowing what resources and accommodations are available to employees who may be struggling with problematic cannabis use or a cannabis substance disorder.

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