Officials say it’s up to federal workplaces to decide if their cannabis rules need updating

OTTAWA — With recreational cannabis one week away from becoming legal, federal officials say it’s up to each workplace to decide if their rules around employee cannabis use need updating.

The government did not change federal labour code requirements or stipulate any workplace drug-testing rules when it passed cannabis legislation last June. Instead, it has general guidelines available. The result is a range of rules around cannabis use when it comes to federally-regulated workplaces, which employ eight per cent of Canadian workers. Other workplaces will have to consult provincial guidelines and rules.

“Impairment is not a new issue in workplaces,” said a senior government official at a briefing in Ottawa on Wednesday, explaining why labour rules were unchanged. “Where impairment does create a hazard or risk in the workplace, workplace parties have already developed policies. What they’re being encouraged to do is revisit their policies based on the legalization of cannabis, and take whatever measures are necessary…to ensure those risks are minimized.”

The briefing, which was given on the condition that names not be used, included officials from a variety of federal agencies such as the Department of National Defence, the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency and Transport Canada.

In some cases, the rules are staying the same. A Transport Canada official said that airline pilots, as one example, have always had a zero-tolerance requirement for cannabis (medical or otherwise) to obtain and renew their medical certificate that allows them to fly, and that won’t change with legalization.

For most other positions regulated by Transport Canada, the minimum standard is showing up to work “fit for duty,” and it is already a crime to operate a mode of transport while impaired by any substance, legal or illegal.

But other agencies are bringing in new rules to coincide with legal recreational cannabis. Border guards in certain …read more

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