In the weeks and months leading to marijuana legalization, employers found themselves in a difficult position. Since there are no labour laws or criminal laws governing workplace legal cannabis policies, management was forced to improvise.
Ultimately, however, creating these rules was a matter of common sense. But even after workplaces had established their policies, the nearly universal opinion was that their companies would suffer.
Specifically, human resources professionals and supervisors felt that legal cannabis would seriously hamper productivity and increase absenteeism. This is at least partially thanks to the stereotype of the “unmotivated stoner.”
But almost a year later, CBC News reports that this opinion has shifted.
Employees Mostly See No Change
To determine the impact – if any – of legalization in the workplace, Ipsos conducted a survey of over 1,000 employees. According to CBC News:
“Conducted by Ipsos on behalf of ADP Canada, a human resources software company, the survey suggests that most Canadians believe recreational cannabis has had little to no impact at work.”
When the same question was posed prior to legalization, 46 percent of those surveyed believed productivity would take a hit and 40 percent predicted a rise in absenteeism.
CBC News theorizes that the reason for this minimal impact is due to workplace rules:
“Legal recreational cannabis hasn’t had the negative effect on workplace productivity that some Canadians expected, but that could be because most of us work for organizations that don’t allow it at work, a new online survey suggests.”
Although the survey does indicate that 86 percent of employers do not allow cannabis use at work, it does not directly suggest any kind of connection.
Naturally, we cannot say that rules do not play a role in keeping employees compliant. But we can also attribute a large part of it to common sense. Employees likely understand that if they come to work impaired, it could impact their work quality or lead to disciplinary action.
Henry Steenkamp of ADP Canada sees it a bit differently. Rather than fear of reprisal, he believes workers adhere to the rules because they are inherently good people:
“I think that Canadians are very good, law-abiding citizens, and I think they have respect for the workplace.”
Both suggestions are perfectly plausible. In fact, it is likely that both are factors. But there is another one worth considering. Employment Lawyer Nadia Harum Arauz from Toronto’s MacLeod Law Firm explains:
“The reality is, I think, a lot people consumed cannabis regularly already, and so legalization probably didn’t have too much of an impact on their current practices. It makes sense to me that the impact hasn’t been high as people were fearing it to be.”
This actually is consistent with findings following legalization, where reported cannabis use showed little increase – baby boomers being the exception.
Employer’s Worried Over Nothing
Organizations may have been dead wrong in their predictions, but we are in no way blaming or criticizing them for their concerns. Legalization was a new concept and businesses needed to consider its impact on their bottom line. If their concerns had come true, it would have been a devastating blow.
Businesses did everything right in anticipation for legalization. They created cannabis policies outlining when the drug could be consumed. Some industries, however, restricted or completely banned consumption outside of work. Daniel Walker, head of Cannabis Law Group, says:
“Airline pilots and crane operators are two examples where employers can reasonably ask that workers refrain from consuming drugs or alcohol either altogether or within 12 hours of a shift.”
But Walker warns that such restrictions in industries where safety was not a major concern had no right to impose those rules. He warns that such a move would be seen as a human rights violation and challenged as unconstitutional.
WeedAdvisor’s Emphasis on Responsible Consumption
On multiple occasions, we stated how much we value public safety and responsible cannabis use. Aside from medical necessity, we see no reason why individuals should consume marijuana before or during work.
At the same time, excessive restrictions are equally unfair, so policies need to strike a balance that addresses the organization’s needs and respects the autonomy of its employees.
Things like these are not easy to balance, but so far, we are off to a good start.
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