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Cannabis at work 


An operator’s guide to developing policies for employees and customers


With the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada in October 2018 (and, more recently, edibles), many businesses, including convenience retailers, are now faced with the challenge of managing the effects of the legislation on their workplace while also protecting their rights as employers. It’s important for convenience retailers to know about cannabis, its potential effects, ways to detect its use, and what to do if you suspect your employees are under its influence.

Canada has one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world. 

Cannabis 101

There are two types of cannabis. Sativa cannabis affects the functions of the brain, creating a sense of uplifting and euphoria, creativity and increased energy. Indica cannabis affects the body, resulting in relaxation, appetite and stimulation, and is helpful in aiding sleep and pain relief. 

Cannabis contains hundreds of chemical substances including delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). Medical cannabis has been legal in Canada since 1999, and although it may have lower amounts of THC, which is responsible for the psychoactive response, it may have an impact on how the brain and body function. 

Cannabis impairment is usually subtler and longer-lasting than alcohol and may be harder to recognize. Effects include diminished mental alertness, physical coordination, reaction time, sustained vigilance, manual dexterity and judgment: These can last as long as 24 hours.

Those authorized to use cannabis for medical purposes must have a registration document from either a federally licensed seller or from Health Canada for personal or designated production or possession only. In workplace situations arising from medical cannabis, employers have a legal duty to enquire and investigate the possibility of accommodating the disability. It’s important to note it is the disability that must be accommodated, not the employee.

What’s your workplace policy?

Develop a workplace drug and alcohol policy that clearly defines impairment, requires employees to be fit for work, outlines disciplinary procedures up to and including termination, support for employees struggling with addiction, the use of cannabis in and around the workplace (as well as in company vehicles), and the use of medical cannabis on an individual basis.

As well, retailers should develop procedures for identifying, reporting and removing employees from the workplace, identify resources and supports for employees, accommodation measures for those who disclose a substance problem, training for employees on workplace risks and policies, and training for supervisors to identify, respond to and record evidence of workplace-related impairment. Reinforce workplace harassment policies and implement wellness programs to support physical and mental well-being.

C-stores and cannabis consumption

Different provinces and territories are handling the sale of cannabis differently. While some make it available only through government-operated stores or online, others are offering cannabis through private retailers.

For instance, in Ontario recreational cannabis is available online through Ontario Cannabis stores – and at licensed private retail stores. Unlicensed convenience stores can sell cannabis consumption paraphernalia, such as hand and water pipes, but these items should be positioned so children cannot reach them. 

Train your staff

Be clear on what is legal and not legal with regard to cannabis and train your staff to know the law and be able to defuse difficult situations should they arise with customers. 

Cannabis is here. Its use is real so it must be taken seriously.


Larry Masotti, director of strategic partnerships with Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS), appeared recently at The Convenience U CARWACS Show.

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