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Road To The Legalization Of Recreational Cannabis

Canada: Road To The Legalization Of Recreational Cannabis – What Employers Should Know


Last Updated: October 5 2018

Article by Justine LaurierMarie-Pier EmeryRobert W. WeirKate DeardenDuncan MarsdenLaurie RobsonSteve M. Winder and Andrew Nathan

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

The federal government announced that the legalization of recreational cannabis is effective on October 17, 2018. Employers should prepare for this change as it will impact Canadian businesses of all sizes.

Federal Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts, permits legal access to recreational cannabis and controls and regulates its production, distribution and sale.

Starting October 2018, these changes will come into force and apply across Canada.

What Will Not Change

  • Employers still have the legal obligation to provide a healthy and safe workplace for their employees.
  • Employers can still expect and require that employees come to work fit for duty and remain fit throughout their work day while performing their duties.
  • Just as is the case for alcohol, the legal status of cannabis does not entitle employees to use it at work, or be under its influence when they perform their work.
  • Employees under the age of 18 (19 in some provinces) will still be prohibited from using or possessing cannabis.

What Will Change

  • Possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis for recreational purposes will be permitted for individuals at least 18 years of age (or 19 in some provinces).
  • Employers can no longer prohibit their employees from using cannabis outside work hours, as it will be a legal recreational drug; however, employees may not be impaired at work or while working.
  • Employers will not be allowed to distribute, sell, encourage, tolerate the use of cannabis or make it available to employees at social events.
  • Employees under the influence of cannabis at work-related social events will have to be treated in a similar manner to employees impaired by alcohol.


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