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Many people are in the midst of updating leasing documents to prepare for the federal legalization of cannabis in October. This is an important process in order to ensure the safety and well-being of residents; acceptable standards of property care; and to avoid conflict among our tenant communities.

Rental providers must also consider the forthcoming legislation’s impact on their staff, agents, contractors, or suppliers, whose legal use of cannabis could result in employer liability.

Multi-housing employers must provide a legal “duty of care” to guard against residents’ personal injury or property loss. For example, public areas must be free of preventable hazards; so if a floor is wet and potentially slippery, staff are expected to post warning signs for tenants. If no sign is posted and a tenant is injured, the landlord’s legal “duty of care” has been breached and could result in payment of damages.

When cannabis becomes legal, its use by employees will be as legal as consuming coffee or snacks while working. There is no question, however, that cannabis consumption can impair motor skills and cognitive functions. In a multi-residential setting, such impairment could contribute to property damage and personal injury, leaving the employer or landlord subject to liability.

On-site or on-call staff who respond in emergency situations are particularly vulnerable if their impairment due to legal cannabis use contributes to a tenant’s personal injury or property loss.

Leasing agents or site staff whose judgment is impaired by cannabis may make paperwork errors that could impact a landlord’s decision to accept and/or decline lease applicants, potentially causing significant financial loss. Also, cannabis cultivation and distribution by a landlord’s employees can lead to legal liability due to security issues arising from theft or break-ins.

In light of the upcoming legislation an employer’s policies should clearly outline restrictions on employees’ use of cannabis during work hours, emphasizing compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, and the Ontario Human Rights Code. While there are some differences in application among Canadian provinces and territories, all jurisdictions have similar equivalents to these three Ontario statutes.

Blanket restrictions on cannabis cultivation and distribution should be clearly addressed in workplace policies designed to protect employers and employees from legal liability while adhering to compliance with the Human Rights Code.

(The above information was condensed and excerpted from a recent industry service article published by Cohen Highly LLP.)


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