Cannabis Referendum Falls Short


The preliminary results on the Cannabis Referendum show that the majority of voters, 53.1%, have voted against legalising recreational cannabis.


While special votes have yet to be counted, the Government has announced that it will not be proceeding with any legislation to legalise recreational cannabis use. So, what, if anything, does that mean for employers?


On face value, the status quo continues to apply. However, what the referendum shows is that there is growing acceptance of cannabis. 46.1% voted in favour of reform in this area.


From an employment perspective, employers should continue to review their work environment and consider, if they have not already done so, what controls they might need to meet the PCBU obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to ensure the workplace is a safe and healthy environment for all workers, customers, suppliers, etc.


Drug impairment is just as problematic as alcohol impairment in the workplace. A person impaired by either alcohol or drugs is a risk to themselves, their colleagues, customers, the public, and their employer's business. Employers need to take all practicable and reasonable steps to ensure their workplace is safe and healthy. This may therefore require you to have in place a good drug and alcohol policy. Some employers may already have a contractual statement about drugs and alcohol in the workplace within their employment agreements. However, having a complementary policy can strengthen this and give clarity to all parties as to how you will support employees with alcohol and/or drug addictions.


If your employment agreement refers to a policy, then you must have a policy in place and follow the procedures set out in the policy. Failure to do so may limit the effectiveness of your approach when dealing with problems in the workplace. (Refer our August blog on "Drug Testing - Getting it Right").


If you do not have a policy, now is the time to consult with your employees and, if applicable your workers union, on a policy setting out how you will support employees and when and how you might test for drugs and alcohol. The most common grounds for testing for drugs and/or alcohol are through:

  • a pre-employment test - particularly if working in a safety sensitive role

  • random testing - this generally should apply to all employers, including management

  • following an incident with serious or potentially serious or major or catastrophic consequences

  • having reasonable cause to believe an employees performance or safety at work is compromised by drug or alcohol use.

If you require assistance in developing a draft drug and alcohol policy McKone Consultancy can assist you with the drafting and consultation process. Contact us today for an obligation free consultation.

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