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Cannabis & Your Human Rights in Canada

The legalization of cannabis brought about significant changes to many areas of law in Canada. There are many ripple effects of the marijuana legalization, including how this legalization impacts human rights law. While Canadians are permitted to purchase, possess and consume certain cannabis products, there are limits to when and how this can be done.

What is Cannabis and What is CBD Oil?

Cannabis is a plant, commonly known as marijuana. The cannabis plant produces over 100 active chemical ingredients, called cannabinoids. The only cannabinoids that have been researched are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC, and cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD. THC can be found in a number of products, including dried marijuana plant, while CBD is commonly processed into an oil that can be consumed or applied on the skin.

The cannabinoid THC causes the “high” users of cannabis feel. THC can cause levels of impairment that may make a user unfit to drive, work or perform other functions. As WebMB outlines, THC may alter your sense of time, make one feel anxious and could cause hallucinations. CBD does not have you “high” and can actually counteract the effect of THC and reduce paranoia and anxiety.

Healthline outlines the medical conditions that may be aided with THC and CBD:

THC is used to help with conditions such as:

  • pain
  • nausea
  • anxiety
  • muscle spasticity
  • glaucoma
  • insomnia
  • low appetite.
CBD is used to help with conditions, such as:

  • pain
  • nausea
  • anxiety
  • seizures
  • inflammation
  • psychosis or mental disorders
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • migraines
  • depression.
Given the numerous potential benefits on cannabis, many Canadians are choosing cannabis instead of drugs such as opioids. Limits apply on where cannabis can be used, including in the workplace, while driving and as consumers.

What Does the Legalization of Cannabis Mean for Canadians and their Human Rights:

In the Workplace?

While cannabis is now legal for adults to possess and consume in Canada, there are many restrictions in place as to when and where cannabis products can be consumed. Cannabis is regulated similar to alcohol. While it is legal to drink alcohol in Canada, you cannot drink and drive, there are public areas you are not permitted to drink in, and your employer has the right to ensure you are sober enough to perform your job safely.

In 2017, the Supreme Court of Canada decided the case Stewart v. Elk Valley Coal Corp. Mr. Stewart was employed driving a loader, a large piece of machinery, in a mine operation. Given the inherent danger of the mining operating, the employer placed a great importance on ensuring the safety of their employees. Seeking to prevent any incidents, the employer imposed a policy which required employees to disclose dependence or addiction issues, for which treatment would be offered. However, the policy was clear that if any employee did not disclose an issue and was involved in an incident and tested positive for drugs, s/he would be terminated.

Mr. Stewart used cocaine during his off-day but did not disclose this to his employer. He was involved in a work-place accident and drug tested, detecting his cocaine. He said he thought he was addicted to cocaine but was still terminated under the policy.

Stewart challenged his firing under Alberta’s Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act, which prohibits discrimination based on numerous grounds, including mental and physical disability. The Alberta Human Rights Commission found Stewart was not fired due to his addiction, but rather, his failure to abide by a clear policy that he signed and understood. Further, the Commission found he would have been fired whether he was addicted to cocaine or was just a casual user. The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, Alberta Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of Canada all upheld Stewart’s dismissal.

While the Stewart decision concerned the drug of cocaine, many parallels can be drawn regarding marijuana. Employers have a right to place some limits on their workplaces, particularly in safety sensitive positions. Because the mine had a clear policy and informed workers of this policy, Mr. Stewart’s dismissal was reasonable.

Each workplace situation involving marijuana or other drugs will be determined by its own unique facts. If you are an employer or employee dealing with a workplace policy or incident dealing with cannabis or other intoxicants, you should contact an experienced lawyer.

When Driving?

New legislation introduced in response to the legalization of cannabis gave police new powers to detect drug impaired drivers. As the Government of Canada notes, drugs like cannabis can produce effects that make driving a motor vehicle more dangerous, such as:

  • affecting motor skills; 
  • slowing reaction time; 
  • impairing short term memory and concentration; 
  • causing drivers to vary speed and to wander; and 
  • reducing the ability to make decisions quickly or handle unexpected events.
Police can screen a driver for drugs at the roadside through a sobriety test and/or using a salvia test. The Criminal Code also allows blood tests in certain circumstances.

Drivers with 5ng of THC per ml of blood, or 2.5 ng of THC plus a blood alcohol level of .05 can be found guilty of driving under the influence. There is no legal limit to CBD when driving. However, all drivers must ensure they are not impaired by anything, including alcohol, drug or a combination of the two.

As Consumers?

While cannabis is legal to possess and use in Canada, there are still many rules in place to promote safety for everyone. Certain rules are set by the federal government and apply across Canada, while others are set by the provinces. There may be further rules governing the sale and use of marijuana in a specific city or town, and groups such as owners of apartment buildings and rental houses or boards of a condo may also set rules that prohibit or limit use and growing of marijuana in the property.

Currently, Alberta allows for the sale of cannabis products only in licensed stores or online at Individuals may also grow up to 4 plants per household. Adults can purchase and carry no more than 30 grams of dried marijuana at any time.

Currently, edible marijuana products are not legal for sale or purchase in Canada, though plans are in place to legalize edible products in October 2019. The additional time has allowed the government to study issues such as the level of THC and CBD that should be permitted in edible products and write these rules and regulations into law.

Contact Flett Manning Moore, Lawyers in Fort McMurray

The legalization of cannabis significantly changes the laws in Canada. This not only impacts the criminal law in Canada, but effects other areas of law including municipal law, human rights legislation and labour and employment. There are still many questions that will be addressed, and many of these issues, while legislation is in its infancy stages, may need to be further determined by the courts.
If you require a lawyer’s expertise it is better to call and speak with our Fort McMurray lawyers than take a chance of doing something you might later regret. Call 780-799-9290 to speak with a lawyer at Flett Manning Moore law office.
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