Study: Private sector choosing zero-tolerance for cannabis

Oct 23, 2019

According to the results of a recent Conference Board of Canada survey, almost half of private-sector employers have implemented a zero-tolerance cannabis policy in the workplace. Monica Haberl, study senior researcher, told the Calgary Herald that while 76% of Canada’s employers had updated their cannabis policies prior to its legalization in October 2018, many still struggle with specific aspects of cannabis regulation.  

The results of the study, entitled ‘Acting on the Cannabis Act’, showed that of 163 employers surveyed, 48% have implemented “no-use-at-anytime” rules for all employees, despite the legal status of cannabis in Canada.

“There’s a zero-tolerance for use there, not just on the job but at all times, and that’s because testing for cannabis isn’t perfect, they choose to be on the safer side… In some cases, the employer would say, ‘in order to get a job, you can’t use cannabis.’”

Monica Haberl, senior researcher

Over the last year, cannabis regulation has become a contentious issue in safety-sensitive industries such as the oil industry, transportation and warehousing; jobs which involve hazards and the use of heavy equipment.

The study results show that approximately 29% of public-sector employers have adopted the same strict “no-use-at-anytime” approach. Moreover, only about 30% of the employers in the study said they would provide cannabis educational materials to employees.

The survey responses were collected over the period spanning November 2018 to January 2019. Interestingly, 52% of respondents expressed fears about the effect of cannabis in the workplace before last October, but only 36% of participants reported similar concerns after cannabis legalization. However, 78% of employers in safety-sensitive industries reported cannabis-related safety concerns.  

“With legalization, there are people trying it for the first time so there’s certainly opportunities for education, especially with edibles coming onto the market soon… But I can see safety-sensitive workplaces employers don’t want to bring it up, thinking people will then try it,”

Monica Haberl, senior researcher

 In his interview with the Calgary Herald, McMillan Transport Ltd. owner Jamie McMillan said, “For anybody who handles heavy equipment, you can’t have that, you could have another Humboldt Broncos situation… It can happen to anyone . . . we just can’t take the chances.”

The study also mentions that according Canadian Substance Use Cost and Harms Project, alcohol and drug consumption cost the Canadian economy $38.4 billion in 2014, of which $2.82 billion was attributed to cannabis, compared to $14.6 billion incurred due to alcohol use and $12 billion due to tobacco use.

Moreover, from the results of the study, it appears that the majority (60%) of employees do not have a definition for “impairment” in the workplace.

“Even though employees know they have to come to work unimpaired, they might not fully understand what that requires,” Haberl told the Globe Newswire.

Currently, the Conference Board of Canada is carrying out surveys on workplace cannabis, other drug testing and post-legalization work productivity.