Ontario Human Rights Commission Clarifies Laws on Working While Stoned

What are the limits and protections embedded in Canada’s new marijuana laws?
Ontario Human Rights Commission Clarifies Laws on Working While Stoned
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In the final days before Canada legalizes cannabis, various groups and organizations are working hard to hammer out last minute policies, guidelines, and rules. Most recently, this includes the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC).

Yesterday, the group released an updated policy. The document clarifies key points about when, where, and how people can or cannot consume legal cannabis. In particular, the new policy focuses on cannabis in the context of workplace and housing rules.

OHRC’s New Policy Guidance

The new policies attempt to more clearly delineate the extent to which legal cannabis consumption is a human right. As such, the OHRC’s directions focus a lot on questions related to medical marijuana, chronic health conditions, disability, and addiction.

Here are some of the key guidelines to come from the OHRC. These guidelines aim to establish precedent for cannabis rules in Ontario:

  • Employers must do whatever they can to accommodate medical marijuana consumption for employees who have an ongoing health condition or disability.
  • The OHRC said that people with disabilities or those who rely on medical marijuana cannot be discriminated against in employment, housing, or service delivery.
  • Employers do not need to let people smoke, vape, or eat weed inside their facilities. But they do need to let medical marijuana patients take adequate breaks so they can go outside and medicate.
  • People must be allowed to consume legal weed in their homes and apartments, including on balconies or patios.

OHRC’s Limitations on Cannabis Consumption

In general, most of the above guidelines are designed to protect cannabis consumers. But the OHRC didn’t give consumers—whether medical marijuana patients or recreational consumers—a free-for-all pass.

The group also published guidelines for when and where people might not be able to consume weed. Here are some of the key instances when there might be allowable restrictions on consumption:

  • Landlords can restrict consumption by residents when smoking or vaping weed will contribute to a public health problem. This could be the case when one resident’s weed-smoking negatively harms a neighbor who is sensitive to smoke. But, if the weed-consuming resident has a disability, they will still be allowed to medicate at home.
  • Employers could restrict cannabis consumption if it makes it impossible or dangerous for an employee to carry out their job while under the influence.
  • In general, places that do not currently allow tobacco smoking or vaping will be able to enact similar bans on cannabis smoking and vaping.

Legalization is on the Horizon

All of these guidelines come as Canada prepares for full-scale legalization next week. October 17 is still the date on which the country is expected to begin national legalization.

Throughout the year, various political agencies and organizations have been working to fine-tune cannabis-related rules. This includes local governments, which will still have the power to set some of their own restrictions and regulations. It also includes groups like the OHRC.

“The legalization of cannabis is a new reality in Ontario,” OHRC Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane said in an official press release. “But while cannabis laws are changing, this policy statement reminds us that human rights protections for people with disabilities or addictions are the same.”

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