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Cannabis report examines workplace implications, ripple effects


The Conference Board of Canada

Cannabis report examines workplace implications, ripple effects

OTTAWA – August 12, 2019 – The one-year mark since cannabis legalization is quickly approaching, and with it, an ever-expanding ripple effect. The impact of cannabis legalization on Canadian organizations is the subject of a report released today by The Conference Board of Canada.

With the world watching, Canadian businesses have been leading the way by taking an active approach to managing the implications of cannabis on the workplace since legalization in the fall of 2018, but more remains to be done.

“Our research looked at employer concerns about cannabis shortly after legalization” says Monica Haberl, a Senior Researcher for the Acting on Cannabis report.  “We found that more than two-thirds of respondents felt they were prepared for legalization—a much higher proportion than just six months before” she says. An impressive 76 per cent of organizations had updated their policies related to cannabis use ahead of legalization, she explains.

While considerable work has been done by employers, “not all of the kinks have been ironed out”, cautions Haberl. “The majority of responding organizations don’t have a definition for impairment within their workplace, which means that even though employees know they have to come to work unimpaired, they might not fully understand what that requires.”

Lack of clarity for employees points to areas for continuous improvement such as education programs. “It’s one of the simplest gaps to close. Cannabis education offers a practical approach and can be tailored to suit the needs of safety sensitive workplaces as well as those without serious safety concerns”, says Haberl. According to the survey results, only about a third of organizations in the sample said they would directly provide employees with education or materials on cannabis use.

While it’s too early to tell what the long-term effects of legalization will be, what’s clear is that Canadian employers and policymakers are breaking new ground and setting the example for the rest of the world.

Additional findings from Acting on the Cannabis Act:

  • Fifty-two per cent of highly safety sensitive organizations have introduced zero-tolerance cannabis policies.
  • While one in five organizations says they are concerned about problematic substance use in the workplace (6 per cent being extremely concerned), 60 per cent of organizations say they are not concerned.
  • 60% do not have a definition of impairment.
  • Some of the top concerns that employers continue to grapple with include workplace accommodations and alcohol and drug testing.

More findings will be released at the Cannabis at Work: One Year Later event on October 15th, 2019 in Toronto. The Conference Board of Canada will be releasing further cannabis related research on alcohol and drug testing, medical cannabis, and productivity and engagement in the workplace. 


The Conference Board of Canada is Canada’s foremost independent, non-partisan, and evidenced-based applied research organization. We equip leaders and decision-makers with the economic reports, custom research, data, networks and events they need to solve our country’s most pressing challenges. Our focus areas and insights include: CannabisHuman ResourcesHealth, Employee Wellness, and more. We stand at the intersection of research, policy and business - where insights meet impact.

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The Conference Board of Canada

Michelle Rozon 

613-526-3090 ext. 224

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