Medical Marijuana in the Workplace: What Employers Need to Know

by Bennett Jones LLP

The Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations that became effective on April 1, 2014, could substantially increase the number of Canadians who are using lawfully prescribed medical marijuana. As the number of prescribed users increases, the greater the likelihood that an employer will have one of its employees requesting to use medical marijuana in the workplace. The purpose of this update is to review some of the workplace issues that both employers and employees need to consider regarding the use of medical marijuana in the workplace.

  1. Take Requests Seriously – Medical marijuana is a prescribed medication and employers need to take requests for accommodation seriously and should not dismiss employee inquiries without proper consideration.
  2. Don’t Stigmatize Medical Marijuana – Medical marijuana is similar to other prescription drugs, such as, Percocet or Oxycontin that may be used for pain relief and that have the potential to impair an employee’s ability to perform their duties and responsibilities.
  3. No Right to be Impaired at Work– The right to use prescribed medical marijuana to treat a disability or medical condition does not entitle any employee to be impaired at work or in the course of performing his or her duties.
  4. Safety Sensitive Roles – Special circumstances apply, and it may be appropriate to request an independent medical review or third-party medical examination, if the employee requesting accommodation is employed in a safety sensitive position.
  5. Update Policies – Employers need to consider updating their policies relating to drug and alcohol use including:
    • outlining acceptable use of prescription (including marijuana) and non-prescription medication;
    • outlining when notice to the employer of prescription and non-prescription medication use is required; and
    • confirming that employees cannot come to work or perform their duties impaired.
  6. Where Can Employees Use Their Medical Marijuana? – This is a complicated issue that will have to be considered in the context of each workplace and each request for accommodation. A variety of potential legislation and obligation needs to be considered including:
  7. Smoke-Free Ontario Act – As currently drafted, marijuana is not a tobacco or tobacco product for which the use is currently prohibited in an enclosed space.
  8. Human Rights Code – The duty to accommodate requires reasonable accommodation and not necessarily the employee’s mere preference. A balancing of interests will likely need to be considered.
  9. Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) – There is a general obligation under OHSA to take every reasonable precaution to protect the health and safety of workers and one employee’s request to use medical marijuana in the workplace will need to be balanced with the duty to protect the health of all workers (e.g., right not to work in environment with exhaled smoke).

The above is a general overview of issues to consider in the workplace and it is important to remember that each workplace is different and each request for accommodation will be based on its own facts and circumstances (e.g., union or non-union, safety sensitive role, province in which the employee is employed, etc). At Bennett Jones we have a team of professional advisors that can provide guidance to employers regarding their obligations and best practices as the workplace adapts to the lawful use of medical marijuana.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Bennett Jones LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Bennett Jones LLP

Bennett Jones LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.