Pot 101: Weed in the workplace and what needs to evolve

Pot 101: Weed in the workplace and what needs to evolve

With recreational marijuana set to be the law of the land in just weeks, employers will have to develop human resource policies that recognize this significant shift, an HR professional says.

"They need to review their HR policies to prepare for this new challenge," Daniel Boucher told The Homestretch on Tuesday.

Boucher is the regulatory affairs and research director at Chartered Professionals in Human Resources of Alberta. He says there are three broad categories that will need to be updated.

"Fitness for duty, impairment and alcohol and drug policies," he said.

"It's really important employers have their HR professionals go through their policies with marijuana being illegal to see what changes need to be made for when it becomes legal and recreational."

How to detect impairment is one of the hurdles, Boucher said.

"There isn't a test right now that can determine if someone is impaired because of the presence of marijuana, so employers will have to develop testing around fitness for duty, looking for other signs to determine if someone is impaired. The science has just not caught up yet with respect to testing."

Boucher says employers will likely apply alcohol-based policies to marijuana, in terms of impairment, but that regulations can evolve over time.

"All regulations and legislation, when it's introduced and passed, it's not perfect the first time," he said.

"As cases go through the courts, employers are going to need to adapt their policies," Boucher said. "Governments may need to go back and look at their regulations and make sure they have struck the right balance around protecting workers, human rights, privacy and accommodation and the duty of an employer to keep people safe."

Job descriptions and disciplinary policies related to the safety side of marijuana-use should also be looked at.

"Some individuals may be in a safety-sensitive role because they are the decision makers. They get the call if an incident occurs, so they need to be fit for duty, fit to go on site. It's important for employers to tie job descriptions to the requirements of the job. Is this a bona fide occupational requirement for this person not to be using cannabis in any form at any time because of safety issues?" Boucher said.

"It's important that discipline is consistent and timely and that it's clear, the link to the policy and the action the employee took and why discipline is needed."

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With files from The Homestretch and CBC's Ellis Choe