The Sport Information Resource Centre
The Sport Information Resource Centre

The legalization of cannabis in October 2018 has significant implications on the Canadian sport system, ranging from anti-doping policy, to athlete and staff safety and wellbeing, to risk management for organizations.

In November, Julia Dales, Associate Lawyer with Dentons, joined SIRC through a webinar to discuss cannabis laws in Canada. The webinar was designed to increase understanding of the law and where cannabis use and possession is permitted and not permitted; and to provide insight to help sport organizations create policies to govern how cannabis is treated in the workplace.

The webinar discussed the following topics:

  • “Pot Law 101”;
  • An organization’s rights and responsibilities;
  • Duty to accommodate;
  • Key considerations – volunteers, travel, testing, insurance; and
  • Developing a cannabis policy.

Key takeaways included:

  • Sponsorship – Under the current legislation, cannabis organizations will not be a likely source of sponsorship dollars for struggling sport organizations. Federal law places sponsorship restrictions on cannabis companies, prohibiting the use of any cannabis brand elements, accessories or related service in the sponsorship of a person, event or facility.
  • Cannabis at the workplace – Employers can ban the use and possession of cannabis at the workplace, subject to accommodations made for medical cannabis. Employers have a duty to keep workers safe, which includes ensuring staff aren’t impaired on the job; this is particularly important for staff in safety sensitive positions. During the webinar, participants asked about work-related social events – cannabis policies can extend to offsite work events.
  • Duty to Accommodate – Employers have a duty to accommodate employees with certain characteristics that are protected under Human Rights legislation, such as a disability. Disability can include substance dependence and a medical condition that requires treatment with medical cannabis. Therefore, employers must accommodate employees who are addicted to cannabis, or who require medical cannabis, up to the point of undue hardship to the employer. Employees who require accommodation have a duty to cooperate with their employers, such as by providing supporting medical documentation. For employers, accommodation may include designating consumption areas, adjusting work responsibilities, or providing leaves of absence.
  • Volunteers – Employers do not have the same duty to accommodate volunteers who may require the use of medical marijuana. It is recommended that employers closely consider the roles and responsibilities of their staff.
  • Travel to the United States – Cannabis remains prohibited at the federal level in the United States, creating some risk for organizations with staff, athletes and volunteers crossing the Border. Employment policies can indicate employee responsibility to be familiar with Canadian regulation and US laws to avoid being in violation and turned away or detained at the Border. Employers are encouraged to provide or direct staff to key resources to support compliance.
  • Organization Policy – Organizations are encouraged to update their employment and substance use policies to reflect the new Canadian legislation. In addition to the issues raised above, other considerations include clear disciplinary consequences for impairment at work, compliance with provincial/territorial regulations (e.g., the Smoke-Free Ontario Act),and alignment with workplace scent policies.
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