What's New

SHRC Offers Human Rights Perspective to the Federal Task Force on Cannabis Legalization

December 20, 2016

On December 13, 2016, the Federal Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation presented its final report to the federal ministers for Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and Health (click here to view the final report).

The Task Force was mandated to consult with provincial and municipal governments, business and community leaders, and interested stakeholders. The consultations considered critical issues including: health and safety, controlling production, limiting access (particularly for youth), education and awareness about harm, addressing concerns related to crime and justice.  The discussion paper can be found by clicking here.

In Saskatchewan, marijuana and cannabis usage is of particular concern for organizations and employers. Balancing workplace safety, accommodating individuals who may require cannabis products for medical purposes, and stopping criminal activity often represent competing interests.

From a human rights perspective, the legal use of cannabis can be linked to necessary medical treatment and/or disability. In the workplace, for example, employers have a duty to accommodate employees with disabilities and an employee’s related healthcare needs. At the same time, and while every situation is unique, the duty to accommodate must also consider the safety and wellbeing of all employees, the effects of on the job impairment, or inappropriate behaviour.

On September 27, 2016 the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission’s legal team met with Ms. Barbara von Tigerstrom, a recognized expert in this area and member of the Federal Government’s Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, and professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Law since 2005.

The Commission communicated its concerns with potential discrimination and privacy issues. As well, the Commission relayed its experiences with human rights complaints related to the use of medical marijuana, drug addiction, and workplace testing. The Task Force’s final report reflected the opinion of the SHRC by stating, “drug testing in workplaces can only be used if it is to satisfy bona fide occupational requirements” (p. 29).

The SHRC was the only provincial human rights agency to make a presentation to the Task Force.