Almost a year has passed since Canada became the second country in the world to legalize the non-medical use of cannabis. While overall usage rates have only slightly increased since legalization, cannabis use is moving further into mainstream culture. For hotel operators — especially those operating a licensed bar — legalization presents a new and complex liability risk.

The most common concern is the occupier’s liability when serving a customer who is under the influence of cannabis. So far there have not been any cases to set the precedent for liability in this situation. However, looking at previous liquor liability cases, it is safe to assume that owners have a responsibility to ensure that all steps are taken to ensure responsible consumption.

Training front line staff plays an essential role in reducing this liability. Some provincial regulatory bodies have begun to update their courses on responsible service of alcohol to include sections on cannabis impairment.

It is important that hotel staff are able to recognize signs of cannabis consumption. These signs include:

  • Red eyes
  • Poor muscle coordination
  • Delayed reaction times
  • Increased appetite
  • Sudden shift in mood from tense to relaxed
  • Abrupt symptoms of anxiety, panic, and/or hallucinations
  • Distinctive smell (usually described as skunk-like) on the person’s hair or clothing

If you, or members of your staff, suspect that a patron has consumed cannabis, you should refrain from serving them alcohol. Also, always closely observe patrons who have consumed cannabis to ensure that they do not attempt to drive home — either confirm that they have a ride from a responsible person or provide a room for the patron to “sleep it off.”

For more information on liability or to set up a risk management consultation for your establishment, contact Western Financial Group Insurance Solutions at 1-800-665-8990.