How some employers are helping staff talk pot with their kids

Following the legalization of recreational cannabis in October 2018, most Canadian organizations created policies for employees on what is and isn’t allowed in the workplace. But one group that hasn’t been considered is employees’ kids, those in their teenage years who are most vulnerable to cannabis use and overuse.

Cannabis use among Canadian youth aged 15 to 24 is two-times higher compared to adults, and one in five teens between the ages of 15 and 19 have used cannabis in the past year, according to Drug Free Kids Canada.

Read: A look at four benefits plan models for covering medical marijuana

So how can employers help their employees talk about cannabis use with their kids? Drug Free Kids Canada has introduced its Cannabis Talk Kit, which several large companies are sharing with their employees.

“Leading up to legalization, we had a lot of people asking us questions about what this meant to them from a work perspective,” says Cheryl Fullerton, executive vice-president, people and communications at Corus Entertainment Inc. “Through this thinking process, we considered all our different Corus people, and whether there were any populations who may have questions or needs outside the business context. And we highlighted parents who could be faced with new conversations, and need to speak about cannabis in a different way.”

Since Corus had a long-standing relationship with Drug Free Kids Canada, it reached out to executive director Marc Paradis, who shared the booklet on how to talk about cannabis with kids. “We loved it,” says Fullerton. “It was clear and practical, and we could see immediately that it would be a helpful tool [for our employees].”

Read: Editorial: To be blunt: It’s time to embrace the benefits of marijuana

Although the booklet is available online, Corus went a step further, sending hardcopy booklets to all of their locations across Canada to increase the probability they’d be readily seen and picked up.

“At Corus, we want to build a culture of well-being,” says Bianca Williamson, director of people and culture at Corus Entertainment. “We want people to feel respected and appreciated . . . to feel part of a community, and that goes beyond their own teams they work with each day. People bring their whole selves to work and that impacts how they show up and perform. We wanted to provide tools and resources for people to navigate through this new norm. Finding a way to talk to your children about something that used to be illegal is a real parenting challenge.”

Read: A roundup of benefits, HR and legal considerations around legalized marijuana

Rogers Communications Inc. decided to introduce the kit because it provided a credible resource to help employees talk to their kids about the change. “Parents, aunts, uncles, friends, we all have the opportunity to influence the next generation and our communities,” says Yanique Smith, senior manager of well-being at Rogers. “One of the key goals of our safety and well-being program is to support and educate our employees. This includes providing opportunities to build skills and lifestyle behaviours that can positively influence them at work and in their personal lives.”

The message was shared across different channels, viewed by hundreds of employees and was positively received, says Smith.

The handbook has also been shared with employees at the Bank of Montreal, Desjardins Group, Scotiabank and Sunnybrook Hospital.