High Times in Canada's Government: Is the Federal Public Service Ready for Casual Cannabis Use?

3 minute read

It’s 10 am in front of Health Canada’s Brooke Claxton Building and on this fall morning a dozen department staff are enjoying the sunshine as part of their daily cigarette break. To casual observers this would be a typical daily ritual, but on this morning the smoke has an extra zing to it. In addition to the morning cigarette a few of the assembled are enjoying their first legal cannabis break.

According to Statistics Canada 4.2 millions Canadians, or about 14% of Canada’s population, use cannabis for non-medical reasons. Applied to the federal public service this figure translates to about 36,000 would be cannabis users. Cannabis use among federal employees is not a new phenomenon. What is new is how legalization changes how users may consume their cannabis.

Whereas the new rules that apply to cannabis use that have applied since October 17thhave been widely discussed, less discussion have occurred on the topic of how different workplaces are going to deal with casual cannabis use by their employees. One such workplace is the federal government where, according to reporting by iPolitics, the approach has been anything but clear. For federal government employees the rules around cannabis use depend very much on whom they work for.

Observers may reasonably ask why in the run-up to the legalization of cannabis efforts were not applied to updating the Canada Labour Code and its regulations, especially Part III, which applies to the federal government.

Faced with a potential new headache federal public service managers have received no guidance from TBS or PCO. To date, Treasury Board has issued no policy or directive about cannabis use by federal employees, leaving deputy heads and other senior managers to come up with an approach that balances their employees new right with the public interest their organization strives to deliver. Some federal organizations have issued “fit for duty” rules or rules barring cannabis use within a given time period before “safety-sensitive” work shifts. And, in a rare demonstration of labour-management like-mindedness, none of the major federal public sector unions has issued any guidance to their members about cannabis in the workplace. Is this ad hocapproach workable in the longterm?

In it not known when this will occur, but soon enough a federal employee will be sanctioned for cannabis use. Or cannabis will have been shown to been a cause behind a program or service problem. Federal managers need guidance now to help them manage cannabis in the workplace. In fact, federal managers need guidance to learn now to identify, manage and, if necessary, intervene where employees under their responsibility show evidence of substance abuse.

Workshop Series

The IOG is hosting a one-day workshop on Cannabis in the Workplace. Click here to learn more.

About the author

Author information not available.