Cannabis – A Shift in Perception

With the legalization of cannabis only a couple months away, many Canadians still have reservations about its accessibility and the effects its consumption will have on the workplace.

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In the past few years, Canadians have experienced a growing reliance on the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. Its usage for treatment of pain, relief of cancer symptoms, and epilepsy has paved the way for the legalization of cannabis and has slowly altered the way the general public perceives the historically illegal substance.

Though studies show the majority of Canadians agree with its legalization, recreational use of cannabis still has its critics. Here, we examine three areas of concern related to the legalization of cannabis and its impact on the workplace.

Managing a “high” workplace

Though employers must accommodate employees who have prescriptions to use medicinal marijuana, the imminent legalization of cannabis brings up concerns about controlling recreational use at work. Employers have the right to set limitations on the consumption of cannabis on work property in line with a drug-free workplace policy. The policy should outline disciplinary action for offenders in attempts to prohibit impairment on the job.

Managing the credibility of employers and employees

Regardless of the pending legalization, or the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, there is still a stigma surrounding the consumption of cannabis. Once legal, employers should make attempts to change policy vocabulary. For example,  the substance should no longer be defined as “illegal” to recognize the legislated reality and to help shift perceptions away from traditionally negative views of recreational consumption by employees.

Negotiating differences in perceptions across demographics

Cannabis purchases vary based on demographics, with 25-44 year-olds accounting for 40% of the purchases while the 45-64 year-old group accounts for only 23% of cannabis purchases. Though this number has grown, the large gap in consumption between the age groups indicates greater acceptance towards cannabis from the 25-44 year-old demographic. By instituting a drug-free workplace policy, employers can accommodate the varying perceptions of cannabis across your workforce.

Regardless of the varied perceptions, the legalization of cannabis is imminent, and with it, proposed preventative measures instituting proper control of substance distribution and consumption will be introduced that seek to allay negative perceptions of the legalization of cannabis. Employers can also respond to shifting perceptions with clear workplace policies for their employees.

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