The conflation of medical and recreational cannabis can present challenges when it comes to workplace policies, says Gregory Clooney, a lawyer and senior legal consultant at Morneau Shepell Ltd.

“This should be avoided as these are two very different concepts to be addressed within their own context,” he says. “Yes, there’s some potential overlap, but this can be addressed with the appropriate policy language.”

Clooney will be sharing these ideas and more on a panel at Benefits Canada’s 2019 Benefits and Pension Summit at the Marriott Downtown at CF Toronto Eaton Centre on April 17. He will be joined by Ned Pojskic, leader of pharmacy and health provider relations at Green Shield Canada, and Angelo Tsbelis, president of Starseed Medicinal Inc.

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“There’s an onus on employers to ensure they’ve done their due diligence to provide a safe workplace,” says Clooney. “This includes considering the potential impact of the recreational legalization of cannabis, as well as the potential use of medical cannabis in the workplace when triggered by the duty to accommodate.”

He notes some plan sponsors have reviewed their policies and procedures to ensure the impact of recreational legalization is captured by their current approach to impairment in the workplace. And for policies on impairment, regardless of underlying cause, a review may provide reassurance to employers that changes aren’t required.

“However, upon review, it’s possible it may require changes to the policy, such as definitions for what is and isn’t an illegal drug or illicit substance and what constitutes a workplace.”

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Some plan sponsors have policies that don’t focus on impairment itself, he says, but instead rely on prohibitions against illegal drugs or illicit substances. “These policies will no longer capture recreational cannabis as this is no longer illegal or illicit. Employers should address these concerns as soon as possible.”