The Basics of Cannabis and Workplace safety

Jun 10
With cannabis being legal in Canada since 2018, many of us have questions about how it fits into our work lives. When you're working in physically demanding jobs like construction, safety is everything, and understanding how cannabis can impact your job is crucial. Let’s break down what you need to know to keep yourself and your team safe.

Cannabis and Its Effects

Cannabis contains tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, the compound that gives you that "high." THC can affect your brain, leading to slower reaction times, impaired judgment, and coordination issues. These effects can last for hours, and THC can stay in your system for days - even if you feel fine.

Why It Matters on the Job

1. Safety First: Worksites are full of potential hazards. Operating heavy machinery, working at heights, and handling power tools require you to be at your best. Cannabis use can make these tasks more dangerous by slowing your reflexes and clouding your judgment.

2. Quick Reactions: Sometimes, you need to make split-second decisions to avoid accidents. Cannabis can slow down your reaction times, putting you and your coworkers at risk.

3. Clear Judgment: Good decision-making is key on the job. Whether you’re assessing a risky situation or troubleshooting a problem, cannabis can impair your ability to think clearly and make safe choices.

What the Law Says

In Canada, workplace safety laws mean employers must ensure a safe environment for everyone. This includes making sure no one is working while impaired. Even if you're using cannabis for medical reasons, employers can enforce rules to keep job sites safe.

CBD: A Safer Alternative?

With the concerns about THC and impairment, some workers are turning to cannabidiol - also known as CBD - as an alternative. Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t produce a high.

Here’s what you should know about CBD:

1. No High, No Impairment: CBD doesn’t affect your cognitive functions, so you won’t experience the delayed reactions or impaired judgment associated with THC. This makes it a safer option for those looking to manage things like pain or anxiety without the risk of impairment.

2. Legal and Accessible: CBD products are legal in Canada and can be found in various forms such as oils, capsules, and creams. Ensure you choose products from reputable sources to avoid any contamination with THC.

3. Health Benefits: Many people use CBD for its potential benefits, including pain relief, reduced anxiety, and improved sleep. These benefits have the potential to help you stay focused and perform your best on the job.

4. Check Workplace Policies: While CBD is non-impairing, it's still important to check your workplace policies regarding its use. Some employers may have specific guidelines about any cannabis-derived products.

Staying Safe: What You Can Do

1. Know the Rules: Understand your company’s policies on cannabis use. These rules are there to protect you and your teammates.

2. Stay Educated: Learn about how cannabis affects you. Know that even if you don’t feel “high”, THC can still impact your performance on the job.

3. Be Honest: If you use cannabis for medical reasons, talk to your employer. There may be ways to accommodate your needs without compromising safety.

4. Watch Out for Each Other: If you notice a coworker might be impaired, don’t ignore it. Talk to your supervisor. Safety is a team effort.

5. Talk to Your Doctor: If you are interested in learning more about medical cannabis, talk to your doctor or a healthcare practitioner.