Soon you can smoke a joint but is Canada ready for cannabis?

Published: March 29, 2018

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones



The Canadian government will enact the legalization of marijuana for recreational use (medical use has been legal since 1999) this summer, no later than July. Leading up to the law, insurance companies around the country are scrambling to prepare themselves.

For home insurance questions around safety issues caused from personal growth, to tenants insurance concerns regarding the use of cannabis in a rented property. Then there is auto insurance, with authorities still not entirely sure how they will police dirver impairment through cannabis use.

Other concerns include marijuana use in the workplace. An expert lawyers speaking at the Ontario Mutual Insurance Association (OMIA) last week warned it will be hard to completely ban marijuana from the workplace.

Impaired drivers are one of the main concerns about introducing the drug recreationally. The Liberal government, under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has plans to implement a major reform of impaired driving laws in Canada. Trudeau’s ministers say they plan to make the country’s laws on impaired driving among the most robust in the world.

Under the proposed overhaul, drivers will not be permitted (under a criminal offence) to operate a vehicle within two hours of going over the drink or drug limit. A first offence will carry a mandatory $1,000 fine and repeat offenders will get harsher penalties.

“Everybody is concerned with drug-impaired driving, including the insurance industry,” said Ivan Ross Vrana, senior account director at HKS Strategies. “I have a concern on the policing fronts and from insurance purposes.

“A driver gets pulled over by police and is told to take a drugs test. How reliable is that test? It’s not like alcohol where a person is impaired or they’re not. What if the driver took cannabis for medical purposes – what’s the distinction there? I hope that the tests they produce are sophisticated enough to differentiate between different cannabinoids and the different uses of cannabis. It’s going to be a huge headache trying to curtail, measure and correct drug-induced driving.” 

“Both bills [related to The Cannabis Act, Bills C-45 and C-46] are actually silent when it comes to employment and occupational safety,” said Sandra Gogal, practice leader at Miller Thomson LLP. “At present, there is no Canadian law that regulates mandatory drug testing of employees, so when the recreational market opens up, it creates a number of interesting issues.”