Effective October 17, 2018, recreational cannabis became legal nationwide. While the legalization of cannabis has created new business opportunities for the private sector in the province, concerns have been expressed by business owners that legalization will bring new workplace health and safety-related challenges for employers, particularly those operating in safety-sensitive environments like oil and gas, mining, construction, transportation, etc. Under the Saskatchewan Employment Act, employers operating in the province must provide for a safe and healthy workplace. Part III of the Act includes general duty health and safety provisions which explicitly prohibit impairment in workplaces.
The SCC endorses the Government of Saskatchewan’s private sector-led retail and wholesale approach for legal recreational cannabis. Private sector retailers and wholesalers are best suited at driving growth and innovation in this emerging industry by being responsive to consumer demands. The Chamber believes that the appropriate role for the Government of Saskatchewan in the legal cannabis market is that of a fair and impartial regulator of private sector activity through the SLGA, and not as a participant in the marketplace.
In light of legal cannabis, we encourage employers to periodically review ongoing legislative developments and update their workplace drug and alcohol policies, if they have not already done so. Employers should also ensure that their drug and alcohol policies include a clear and functional definition of the term impairment that factors in medical cannabis use, as well as where and when such use is appropriate. Employers should continually revisit their drug testing policies and protocols in light of the rapid changes in technology.
On the market structure model, the SCC endorses the Government of Saskatchewan’s current role in the province’s emerging legal cannabis sector, which is providing appropriate regulatory oversight through the SLGA. On workplace health and safety matters, In September 2018, the SCC provided recommendations to the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety during their stakeholder consultations around impairment in the workplace. Some of those recommendations include:
- Providing additional clarity for employers by establishing a legally definition of impairment to help better manage risks;
- Requiring that an employee proactively disclose their impairment to a supervisor or manager before reporting for work (fit for duty)
- Developing reliable, standardized, and legally-sanctioned drug testing protocols to detect cannabis impairment using a prescribed legal limit;
- Requesting some clarity around the circumstances under which randomized testing would be permitted; and
- Establishing a legal definition for the phrase safety-sensitive environment/position