The Canadian Federal government recently took a proactive step towards the legalization of cannabis by establishing the Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation. The Task Force has released a discussion paper and is asking Canadians for feedback by the end of August 2016.

Cannabis legalization is a scary concept for employers, as cannabis has traditionally been restricted in workplaces regardless of medical or recreational use. Here are three things that employers should take away from the Task Force’s discussion paper.

This is happening

Employers should not ignore that medical cannabis patient numbers are growing and recreational use will soon be legal. The horse has left the barn. There is a significant amount of change management that needs to occur in workplaces from educating supervisors on how to manage cannabis to updating policies and procedures. Employers should be planning for these changes today.

Recreational use is easier to manage then medical

In many ways, recreational cannabis use is easier to manage in the workplace than medical. This is because you can restrict recreational use, in the way you restrict alcohol in the workplace. On the other hand, employers have to accommodate an employee’s use when they have a valid prescription. Accommodation is situational and can lead to legal battles if not handled properly. Employers should get a handle on their policies related to medical and recreational.

Canada will have a world-class system

Employers should take some comfort in the fact that Canada is building a world-class system for the production and regulation of cannabis. For example, employees who consume medical cannabis will have access to high quality product and will have access to the concentrations of THC and CBD in the products they purchase. This type of information makes it possible for physicians and employers to assess an employee’s dosing and make decisions about their fitness for duty. While managing cannabis in the workplace is new and challenging, a system where this type of information is regulated and available actually makes managing it much easier.

Canada is moving rapidly towards legalization and will be a leader in production and distribution. Employers should take the time to consider the information provided by the Task Force in the discussion paper and have their voice heard by submitting feedback by the end of August 2016.