The Weed Life; the New Law and Your Workplace

Maybe you have seen the new job ads. New positions in a Growth industry. In the twenty years I have been in this industry, I don’t think I expected to be hiring people to work in a factory for growing marijuana.

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Canadian culture is changing. I can’t say for sure if it’s more so now than ever before, but it makes for good reading. What I will say is this, we are seeing longstanding laws change to better reflect the views of the population. Seriously, who knew that the pot industry would become another file in my recruiting portfolio?

Despite the fact that we knew these changes were coming, there are always going to be the businesses that react with a knee-jerk. And with the way Tim Hortons got lambasted for its reaction to the minimum wage increase, you can expect businesses that are as ill prepared for the change will get equally bad press.

Weed. It’s legal.

This brings up a curious challenge for me in my business, and no doubt in yours.

For one, I need to go about hiring people to work in this burgeoning industry. This leads to interesting questions about hiring practices.

Also, how do we update our drug-use policies as medical marijuana is permitted and we’re uncertain as to how to measure marijuana intoxication? If your employee is legitimately using a product to manage pain, but is otherwise able to operate machinery, where does your responsibility and liability lay?

It may be that using medical marijuana is not a fireable offence, given its legal status. However, THC impairs cognitive ability, legal or not. How do you control or monitor its use when it can be prepared in food?

There are a lot of questions!

Exactly what are the new laws?

In short, it’s legal to smoke pot.  But life is a little more complicated than that, and so are the new rules.

I’ve pulled this list from the Canadian Government site, so you can dig further, if you like.

The Act seeks to:

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    restrict youth access to cannabis

  • protect young people from promotion or enticements to use cannabis
  • deter and reduce criminal activity by imposing serious criminal penalties for those breaking the law, especially those who import, export or provide cannabis to youth
  • protect public health through strict product safety and quality requirements
  • reduce the burden on the criminal justice system
  • provide for the legal production of cannabis to reduce illegal activities
  • allow adults to possess and access regulated, quality controlled legal cannabis
  • enhance public awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis

There are a few things to unpack here. The first, if we start at the top of the list, is simply to prevent kids from having access to drugs.  Anyone under the age of 18 is simply not allowed have the stuff and there are stiff penalties for selling/providing/advertising to minors. Really, this is no different than our current alcohol laws, except that the age is lower. I am sure the degree to which the laws will be effective will be approximately the same, as well.

Okay, fine, no drugs to kids. What’s next?

Well, this won’t provide you with carte blanche to have a backpack full of buds. There are limits to how much you can buy and possess. According the site, the proposed amount is 30 grams. That means you can have, buy, and share up to that amount.

The new laws will even allow people to grow up to four plants per residence and make their own pot brownies.

Lastly, the new laws promise super-strict regulation and quality control.

  • set strict requirements for producers who grow and manufacture cannabis
  • set industry-wide rules and standards, including:
  • the types of cannabis products that will be allowed for sale
  • packaging and labelling requirements for products
  • standardized serving sizes and potency
  • prohibiting the use of certain ingredients
  • good production practices
  • tracking of cannabis from seed to sale to prevent diversion to the illicit market
  • restrictions on promotional activities

Getting Ready for the Changes

Marijuana is still going to be a controlled substance, regardless if it is legal. That means you are going to have to update your policies regarding its use around the workplace and workplace hours.

Recreational use marijuana still causes impairment, and its effects can have serious implications if it’s used in situations when cognitive ability needs to be sharp.

Remember how I suggested small businesses get ready for the minimum wage change? How many stories did we hear of businesses struggling because they didn’t make any consideration for the change in operations, despite more than enough advanced warning.

Don’t be like them. Depending on your industry and employee base, you may have a percentage of your workforce which are already recreational users. Arguably you, and they, would be much better off if your policies were outlined and in place so that there are no surprises when that one person inevitably tries to test the boundaries.

The rules of the game are changing. Are you ready?

Pot and Your Workplace

Detecting THC and measuring the high

Being able to detect marijuana use has been around for a long time. There are a bunch of methods that can reliably measure the drug content in the body. Urine and even saliva tests can determine if and how long ago someone has used the drug.

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While researching, I read about saliva testing. A quick search to learn about these tests and I am reading about how to beat it. Evidently, there is a cat and mouse game of beating a saliva test. Doesn’t that just throw a wrench in things.

What we can’t seem to detect is the level of impairment. When it comes to alcohol, we’ve done pretty good. We’ve invented a tool that measures blood alcohol level on the spot. We also have strong corollary evidence to link that level with degrees of impairment. Even with people’s different tolerances, the margin for error is small enough to make the whole process reliable. A couple of beers in an hour and you’re going to blow over.

It’s also pretty well accepted globally. Some countries even have Random Breathalyzer Tests. Just ‘cause.

The same cannot be said for measuring how much one is inebriated through marijuana use. Not only that, there is no way of determining the exact measure of time since one may have used it.

Time for some science. Pharmacokinetics. That’s just a really big word for “the absorption, distribution and elimination of a drug from the body”.

Alcohol is neat. It goes in and then straight out of your body. You’re drunk until enough alcohol has left your body. Since alcohol is broken down by liver enzymes at an almost constant rate, it’s not too difficult to predict when you’ve had too much and by when you’re going to sober up.

We have sixty years of really good research and data for this. We know what we’re doing.

Pot, however, is not like that. It gets stored in your fat cells. Well, the Δ-9 THC gets stored in your fat cells, then is released back into the bloodstream. Quickly at first, but then it slows down as it’s released and concentrations diminish. In English, that means you can test positive for weed long after the psychoactive components are gone.

And good luck in figuring out which study to believe. The NHTSA finds there is low correlation between THC levels in the blood and impairment. However, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, after looking two metastudies, states that drivers are twice as likely to crash.

That’s less than conclusive, now isn’t it?

Medical Marijuana and Your Office

First, let’s complicate things a little; not all marijuana products will get people high. While both have medicinal properties, have the same molecular makeup, and can be ingested through capsules, edibles, and oils, only one impairs cognitive function.

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See, there’s the stuff with THC, that gives the high and impairs function. Then there’s CBD, cannabidiol, it does not produce a high or impair function.

Got it?

Given that these things are effectively very different, how do you intend to address them in your workplace?  It is at least prudent to ensure your staff is educated on the difference, for their own safety.


We’re in the thick of it now. The country has moved forward and the laws have progressed. Marijuana is now a legal part of life and it’s more prevalent than ever.

How are you dealing with it in your workplace? What education and enforcement measures have you implemented?


Thank you,
Paul Bergsma