It’s the Law – Canada Comes Out of the Weeds

With the passing of Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, by the Senate on June 19, 2018, Canada becomes the first Western country, and only the second country in the world, to legalize recreational marijuana.  The Bill itself still awaits the final step of Royal Assent to officially become the law of the land.  This is expected to occur within the next few days. Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the law will come into effect on October 17, 2018, allowing time for the provinces and territories to prepare for retail/online sales. In the meantime, Canadians in all jurisdictions are required to continue to follow the existing law and maintain the status quo.

Once the Cannabis Act receives Royal Assent, production, possession, distribution and sale of recreational marijuana will be legal in Canada but will remain subject to laws and regulations passed in each of the provinces and territories across the country.  Collectively, the new laws will:

  • allow adults (18 or 19 years of age, depending on jurisdiction) to grow up to 4 marijuana plants in their own home for personal use the new law (with the exception of those residing in Manitoba and Quebec where local laws prohibit home growth);
  • allow adults to buy, possess and consume small amounts of recreational marijuana – though edibles will remain illegal until additional legislation and regulations are passed, likely in 2019;
  • permit retail and/or online sales of recreational marijuana;
  • determine where recreational marijuana can be consumed or used;
  • provide sanctions for youth possession and use; and
  • address the need for education and prevention training campaigns.

While recreational marijuana will become more widely available through licensed and regulated online and retail sales, this does not mean there will be an automatic impact on Canadian workplaces.

Although there has not yet been implementation, legislation has already passed in each of the 13 provinces and territories that expressly prohibits the use of recreational marijuana in the workplace during work hours and/or near identified workplaces. Employers will continue to have control over the workplace and have the ability and responsibility to manage the work environment. This includes the obligation to accommodate employees with a disability (including a substance abuse issue or addiction) and/or use of medical marijuana to the point of undue hardship, all balanced with the need for safety in the workplace.

PH Tips 

We will continue to monitor the implementation of this legislation and report on it accordingly.  With local regulations and laws already passed in each Canadian jurisdiction and simply awaiting the final passage of the federal legislation, it is easy for employers, including those with a national workforce, to familiarize themselves with their local requirements and review their policies, procedures and practices to reflect anticipated workplace needs.  In particular, we recommend employers look at their policies to:

  • reference the prohibition as to use of and impairment from recreational marijuana in the workplace during work hours;
  • address the commitment of the employer to meet and comply with their accommodation obligations;
  • consider whether benefit coverage is included for medical marijuana and/or substance addiction rehabilitation; and
  • consider the impact of scents and odours associated with marijuana cigarettes or vaporizers on those employees who are sensitive and/or allergic to scents in the workplace.

Cynthia Ingram, Senior Associate