This year, October 17th is Canada’s “cannabis day,” when our nation became the latest jurisdiction to legalize the recreational use of cannabis.


While “legalization” sounds like anything goes, the truth is the federal Cannabis Act, in conjunction with provincial and territorial regulations, prescribes a controlled environment where the purchase, consumption, sharing and growing of recreational cannabis must comply with strict regulations.


Two of the main concerns about this unexplored environment are traffic safety and the potential impact on Canadian workplaces. Canadian police services are working diligently on traffic safety concerns. At the same time, Canadian employers are preparing their processes and practices to incorporate the concerns and legalities around the legalization of recreational cannabis.


Here are 5 things Canadian employers must know as they prepare for this new environment.


1. Zero tolerance policy. As an employer, you cannot enforce a zero-tolerance policy on recreational cannabis use. However, your responsibility to maintain workplace safety means you can prohibit people from coming to work impaired.


2. Duty to Accommodate. Medically-prescribed marijuana has been legal in Canada since 1999, and the new laws do not affect medically-prescribed use. Employers still have a duty to accommodate employees who need medically-prescribed cannabis for a disability.


3.Workplace policies. Your HR policies should be revised to reflect the new laws. The good news is you already have the fundamentals down — start by mirroring your current policies for alcohol and other substances.


4.Make your policies consistent with those for alcohol and other substances. Your policy on Canada’s new laws on recreational cannabis should be consistent with your policies on alcohol or other substances. You can prohibit your employees from coming to work under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance including cannabis.


5.Communication is key. As with everything, good communication is key to making sure your workplace remains safe, productive and fulfilling. Employers should take the time to communicate — both formally and informally — on their expectations and rules regarding the changing environment.


Creating a healthy, productive workplace in this new environment is a collaborative effort between your managers, HR and legal counsel.


For more information on Canada’s cannabis laws or provincial-territorial regulations, download our White Paper.