Are Canadian Workplaces Getting Higher?
As we’re sure you know, cannabis became legal in Canada just over a year ago, on October 17, 2018. Exactly one year later, edibles (cannabis-infused products such as gummies, baked goods and beverages) and topicals (lotions, balms, etc. that can be absorbed through the skin) became legal and will be available to legally purchase in December. Perhaps overshadowed by the federal election, it passed by with far less fanfare than the initial legalization of cannabis did.
A year ago, one of the questions on many minds was how legalization would impact usage. For employers, of course, the concern was: “how difficult will this be to manage?”
Despite the hype about what would occur in the workplace, just like Y2K, the concerns simply didn’t materialize. Both research studies and anecdotal evidence indicate that the impact in the workplace (and in general) of cannabis legalization has been much lower than anticipated.
An Ipsos Study (commissioned by ADP Canada with a demographically weighted sample of 1,160 working Canadian adults) released early in October found that most employers (86%) don’t allow cannabis use in the workplace (before, during or after work hours), in much the same way as they don’t allow alcohol. 8% allow its use during the workday, which corresponds loosely with a study conducted prior to legalization, when 6% of employees figured they’d be permitted to use it before or during work. For those who are permitted to use it before, during or after work, only 47% report using it during actual work hours. This is not particularly surprising, given that very few Canadians report wanting to consume cannabis during work hours, as we indicated in one of our previous posts.
Prior to legalization, nearly half to just over half of Canadian respondents felt that cannabis legalization would negatively impact health and safety incidents (55%), productivity (46%), quality of work (43%) and absenteeism (40%). A year later, when asked about actual impact, the numbers tell a different story. Most Canadian respondents do not feel that cannabis use has had any impact on health and safety (75%), productivity (74%), absenteeism (71%) or work quality (70%). Perhaps as a result of minimal obvious impact, the study also found that nearly half (46%) of respondents don’t view cannabis much differently than a year ago, and 22% said they view it more positively than they did before (whether they use it or not).
Where edibles and topicals are specifically concerned, Deloitte conducted an online study earlier this year with 2,000 Canadian adults regarding their current and expected use of edibles and topicals. They found that 8% are currently using edibles and 59% intend to try them. While this is a significant increase, keep in mind that trying doesn’t mean regular use, nor does it mean using it at work. As we noted previously, and as the Ipsos survey results convey, employees don’t typically want to be stoned at work. While the legalization of edibles and topicals is unlikely to have a significant impact on the workplace, it’s still important to review, update and communicate your policies and associated guidelines related to any sort of drug (ranging from over-the-counter to illegal) or alcohol use in the workplace/at work-related events. If you specifically address cannabis, be sure it doesn’t refer only to smoking or vaping.
Accordingly, employers and managers should understand that, depending on the edible, the effects are different than smoking/vaping, have the potential to be more potent and can last longer. Additionally, unlike smoking or vaping, where the effects are felt immediately, the full effect of an edible can take anywhere between 30 minutes to a few hours to be felt. Further, it’s far less obvious to consume an edible than to go outside for a toke. We invite you to revisit our posts on these topics from last year:
As with all matters relating to consumption of substances that may have an impact in the workplace, it’s important to have clear policies and guidelines, communicate them, train your managers and ensure consistency. Cannabis and the legalization of edibles is no different.