Countdown to Cannabis: A Stewart McKelvey Newsletter: The legalization of cannabis: 7 reasons why employers should take notice
Cannabis legalization is coming. The legislation is expected to pass by July with legalization becoming effective by September.
Employers should take notice because:
1. There is already a lot of cannabis in Canada
Cannabis use in Canada is amongst the highest in the world, and the highest amongst all nations for youth consumption.
According to an EKOS survey (September 2016), 58% of Canadians have used cannabis as least once in their lifetime; 22% have used in the past 12 months; and, 5% use daily. Statistics Canada reported that, in 2017, about 4.9 million Canadians used cannabis.
Statistics Canada estimated that, at $8 per gram, the 2017 illegal Canadian market for cannabis was $5.6 billion – about 50% of the $9.2 billion Canadian beer market and 70% of the $7 billion Canadian wine market.
Cannabis use has a high level of social acceptability. Approximately 48% of Canadians agree that cannabis use is acceptable and consider that it poses less of a health risk than alcohol (41% to 49%).
Cannabis consumption is rising amongst older Canadians. By 2015, two thirds of the market was individuals older than 24 years of age.
2. More cannabis to come with legalization
Next to British Columbia, Atlantic Canadians have the highest level of support for legalization (41%) and the lowest opposition to it (35%). Nova Scotians are already Canada’s highest per capita consumers.
Use amongst working age adults is expected to increase with legalization. Some estimate that use will almost double to about 40% of Canadians (alcohol is consumed by nearly 80% of Canadians).
In Colorado, one study reports that cannabis legalization resulted in a 71% increase in the average past month use for adults 26 years of age and over (compared to a 16% increase for college aged individuals).
3. Cannabis is addictive
Cannabis is addictive. The lifetime risk of addiction is 9% versus 15% for alcohol and 32% for tobacco. The cannabis addiction rate is 17% of those who start as teenagers and 25-50% of those who smoke cannabis daily.
4. Cannabis impairs
Cannabis is different from alcohol – the effects of cannabis are more subtle and longer lasting. THC, the chemical compound in cannabis responsible for a euphoric high, is stored in the brain and fatty cells and released over time. It has a long half-life.
The duration and extent of impairment is impacted by variations in strain, crop and manufacturer; size of the joint or cookie; the depth of inhalation; and, interaction with other substances. When ingested orally, there is a lower and longer-delayed peak THC concentration.
According to a 2015 World Health Organization study, “there is ample evidence indicating that neurocognitive impairment from cannabis persists from hours to weeks. A return to a non-intoxicated state does not ensure a full return of neurocognitive function in the workplace …ensuring safety of workers who are under the influence or who recently consumed cannabis is not possible.”
5. Operating a motor vehicle – risky
The effects of cannabis on motor vehicle operation is an obvious concern.
There is a direct dose relationship between driving ability and blood THC concentration which gives rise to impairment in judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time. There is no “low risk” level of use that has been established. Dosage is difficult to determine when cannabis is smoked.
The Canadian Medical Association’s Driver’s Guide recommends abstinence from driving within five hours of smoking a single joint.
Health Canada says that the ability to drive safely and operate equipment can be impaired for more than 24 hours after cannabis use.
The Canadian Medical Association noted increased cannabis-related traffic deaths following legalization in Colorado, where cannabis-related traffic deaths increased 66% in the four-year period post-legalization, compared to the last four-year period pre-legalization.
The Final Report of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation in Canada (the McLellan Report) acknowledged “there is currently no evidence to suggest there is an amount of THC that can be consumed such that it remains safe to drive.”
6. The problem of residual impairment – hours to days to weeks
According to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the physiological effects of cannabis on neuro-cognitive performance can range from several hours to more than 28 days of subsequent abstinence.
The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine says that, given that inhaled THC may impair complex human performance for more than 24 hours after ingestion, employers should not assume that [cannabis] use between shifts (such as evening use before return to work the following morning) is uniformly safe.
7. Occupational health and safety legislation – the risk to the workplace and to employers
Legislation mandates a safe workplace.
“Studies have linked [cannabis] use directly with an increased prevalence of workplace injury.” US postal workers who tested positive for cannabis on a pre-employment urine drug test had 55% more industrial accidents, 85% more injuries, and 75% higher absenteeism rate, compared with those who tested negative.”
Employers have to exercise due diligence with respect to health and safety risks.
In R v. Metron Construction Corp., 2013 ONCA 541, “three of the four deceased, including the site supervisor Fazilov, had marijuana in their systems at a level consistent with having recently ingested the drug.” The Court found that the supervisor had failed to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm and death by “permitting persons under the influence of a drug to work on the project”. The employer was fined $750,000. In a subsequent court action, the project manager was jailed for 3 ½ years (R. v. Kazenelson, 2018 ONCA 77).
This update is intended for general information only. If you have questions about the above information, please contact Brian G. Johnston, QC, or another member of our labour and employment group.
We are pleased to present the twelfth issue of Discovery, Stewart McKelvey’s legal publication targeted to educational institutions in Atlantic Canada. Our lawyers provide insight on a number of topics facing universities and colleges including…Read More
By Kyle S. Hartlen, Gavin Stuttard, and Colton Smith What is the Innovation Equity Tax Credit? The Nova Scotia Innovation Equity Tax Credit (“IETC“) is a non-refundable personal and corporate income credit intended to encourage…Read More
Changes to Canada’s Competition Act coming into effect this summer: a primer on recent amendments impacting Canadian businesses
By Deanne MacLeod, K.C., Burtley G. Francis and David F. Slipp In June 2022, Canada’s federal government enacted a number of changes to the Competition Act (the “Act”) as the first step in a comprehensive…Read More
This article was updated on April 19, 2023. By Mark Tector and Ben Currie On April 12, 2023 Bill 256: Patient Access to Care Act received Royal Assent. Schedule B of the Bill is the…Read More
Recent Amendments to the Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Regulations
This Thought Leadership article is a follow-up to our January 2023 article on the introduction of the Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act. By Brendan Sheridan On January 1, 2023, the…Read More
By Kevin Landry and Jahvon Delaney Background On March 25, 2023, the Government of Canada released a Notice of Intent titled Consultation on potential amendments to the Cannabis Regulations. The Notice outlines that Health Canada is…Read More
By Kimberly Bungay On April 1, 2023, the Nova Scotia government will proclaim into force Bill 226, which amends the Companies Act (the “Act”) to require companies formed under the Act to create and maintain…Read More
Abuse of sick leave / failure of employee to participate in accommodation process: Vail v. Oromocto (Town), 2022 CanLII 129486
By Chad Sullivan and Kathleen Starke Background A recent decision, Vail v. Oromocto (Town), 2022 CanLII 129486, involved several grievances including an unjust dismissal claim by a firefighter as well as a grievance filed by…Read More
By Stuart Wallace and Kim Walsh On January 1, 2022, the Underused Housing Tax Act (the Act) took effect. The Underused Housing Tax (the UHT) is an annual 1% tax on the value of vacant or…Read More
Parlez-Vous Francais? Recent amendments to Quebec’s Charter of the French Language may impact Atlantic Canadian businesses
By: David F. Slipp and Levi Parsche In May 2022, Bill 96 was adopted by Quebec’s National Assembly, significantly amending the Charter of the French Language (the “Charter“). The amendments create new requirements for using…Read More