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October 16, 2018

CFNU statement on cannabis and workplace health and safety

In advance of the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada on October 17, 2018, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions has released separate position statements on recreational and medical cannabis and occupational health and safety.

CFNU Position

The CFNU, which represents Canada’s frontline nurses, supports a public health approach to cannabis. We recognize that:

  • The legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada has the potential to lead to further increases in cannabis usage (both medicinal and recreational);
  • Nurses work in an environment where safeguarding patient safety is a priority, and nurses must follow nursing regulatory policies, as well as their code of ethics;
  • Employers have a responsibility to accommodate employees with disabilities, including substance use disorders, under human rights law;
  • Employers have a responsibility to ensure the safety of nurses through appropriate policies, protocols, personal protective equipment (PPE) and training, and if these elements are not in place, nurses may have a right to refuse dangerous work as laid out in occupational health and safety legislation and collective agreement language (provincial nurses’ unions should be consulted for any questions about work refusals);
  • Nurses play an essential role in public health education.

In light of these factors, we recommend the following:

  • There should be no random drug testing;
  • Employers should develop/revise, as necessary, policies on the accommodation of prescribed psychoactive drugs and on recreational cannabis;
  • When medical cannabis is used in hospitals and long-term care facilities, and medical and/or recreational cannabis is used in private residences attended by home care nurses, nurses must be provided with appropriate training and have access to recommended personal protective equipment (PPE). The risk of exposure to smoked cannabis must be included in safety policies, which need to provide for a non-consumption period prior to nurses entering a patient’s residence or resident’s room;
  • Nurses must be provided with sufficient resources and training to acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and judgment to assist with the administration of medical cannabis, and to educate and respond to the public with respect to the health implications of recreational cannabis;
  • To accommodate an employee who uses medical cannabis, an employer should mirror the practices it has developed to accommodate any employee who has been prescribed drugs that have the potential to impact or impair their work;
  • If a nurse is faced with improper training, lack of PPE, unsafe conditions of work, or the right to accommodation is not respected, that nurse should contact the union.

Download the full statement, Recreational Cannabis and Occupational Health & Safety.

Download the full statement, Medical Cannabis and Occupational Health & Safety.

Download the statements