Exploring the impact of cannabis on the workplace

Assuming there will be no negative impact may be na├»ve. But assuming there will be a major negative impact – or no potential positive outcomes – would also not be accurate.
The supply of legal recreational cannabis is not keeping up with demand, and with edible cannabis products expected to be made available later this year, recreational cannabis could be in short supply until 2022. It appears Canadians are more interested in cannabis than originally expected.

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In anticipation of the Cannabis Act coming into effect, each employer had to decide what they would do to prepare for the new era of legal recreational cannabis and the degree of risk it might create. Preparations included updating substance use and smoke-free policies; training managers on how to detect and deal with substance-induced impairment; and educating employees on what fit-for-duty means – which is ensuring you are never impaired during work hours.
Along with making the use of recreational cannabis legal, the Cannabis Act has drawn more attention, resources and investment to medical cannabis. An employee needs authorization from a medical doctor to be eligible for a workplace medical accommodation or to be covered under a benefits plan. Many employers, who have yet to cover medical cannabis under their benefits plans, are now considering the pros and cons of doing so. If medical cannabis helps more employees deal with a medical condition, reduce pain, come to work feeling better, thrive in their roles, and support their career confidence, more employers may look favourably to adding it to benefits plans.
It’s unclear what, if any, benefit medical cannabis is having on employees and whether it’s positively impacting their workplace experience. Also in question is whether these employees will be able to go to work each day and perform to a standard that meets their own and their employer’s needs.
The next few years will likely see more research and legal rulings that will define how employers and employees think about recreational and medical cannabis. Numerous legal challenges may be launched around when employers can test for cannabis, what employees can do on their time off work with respect to recreational cannabis, and what roles are allowed accommodation for medical cannabis.
Among the unknowns is whether recreational and medical cannabis use will positively or negatively impact work force productivity.
Career confidence and cannabis study
To answer these questions, The Conference Board of Canada and The Globe and Mail are partnering to explore the relationships between career confidence and cannabis use.
Career confidence refers to how employees believe their role is on track to meet their career expectations and goals. Employees’ career confidence is influenced by their own and their employers’ behaviours.
Most employers know that attracting and retaining top talent requires paying attention to employees’ experience with their career satisfaction. For employees to thrive in their roles, employers need to create a safe workplace.
Career success is dependent on employees coming to work healthy, being engaged and productive, and feeling safe.
This study will help us understand what role, if any, cannabis has on supporting or inhibiting career success (for example, an employee coming to work impaired due to cannabis would be a negative; an employee being able to come to work pain free thanks to cannabis would be a positive).
As part of the study, employees and employers are invited to participate in separate surveys over the next several months.
Survey of Employees – This survey is for all employees, whether they are recreational or medical cannabis users or non-users. This anonymous survey will explore career confidence and perceptions of how employers are managing cannabis in the workplace.
Employees interested in taking the survey can click on this link.
Survey of Employers – This survey will explore employers’ actions to support employees’ career confidence and to manage recreational and medical cannabis in the workplace. It is intended for human resources and occupational health and safety leaders, and senior managers and business owners whose roles influence programs and policies that impact employees’ workplace experience.
Employers interested in taking the survey can click on this link.
Upon completion of each survey, a report will provide insights based on the participant’s responses. In addition, employers will be provided access to the final research report’s findings; employees will be offered a free e-book that aims to help build their career confidence.
This research is aiming to uncover the kinds of relationships that can be found between employers’ and employees’ behaviours around career confidence, cannabis, health, safety and productivity.
Results of this study will be released Oct. 15 at The Globe and Mail Centre in Toronto at a conference that will highlight what’s been learned since recreational cannabis was legalized in October, 2018.
This is the first in a series of articles designed to provide employees and employers information on recreational and medical cannabis, and to increase the level of awareness and education on this topic.
Bill Howatt is the chief of research for work force productivity at the Conference Board of Canada.