You’re going to have an office or social party this fall and some guests are wondering whether they can smoke up or bring cannabis edibles.

Hosts are starting to ask what are their responsibilities in this changing environment; and they should. Liability is not often a concern that a host thinks about when planning a party.

Some would say that you shouldn’t worry about it. In most cases, that might be true, but as the saying goes…”It only takes one …”

As a reasonable person you need to think about the safety of your guests while they are at your event and once they leave. The guest is not excused from having any responsibility.

There have been a number of cases in Canada and the United States where lawsuits have been launched against the hosts or sponsors of parties by a guest who was involved in an incident following their departure from the event.

In some cases the hosts were held partially responsible and in others the host was absolved from any responsibility. However, the court will decide the degree that each party will bear should something go wrong. In other words…it depends.

The question you need to ask yourself, “Is it worth the risk?”

Our best advice would be to consider the use of cannabis and cannabis products at a private or work party in the same way as you would the consumption of alcohol.

There is a difference in the way the law is interpreted for a social versus an office event. Organizations are usually held to a higher level of accountability. That doesn’t mean that as the host of a wedding or birthday, you can do what you want with no repercussions.

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You might use as a guide the question most often asked in a court, “What would a reasonable person do?”

Here are some suggestions:

Clearly state your expectations about the use of alcohol or drugs prior to their arrival at the event. Is this a dry or drug free event?

Provide alternate means of transportation for guests who may be intoxicated. Volunteer drivers, or chits for taxis, Uber/Lyft, or public transport are more and more common.

Monitor your guests’ level of intoxication. Have a few designated guests who can alert you if there are concerns about how individuals are doing. Arrange to address concerns quickly and with a sense of compassion not confrontation. You want to deescalate any problem that might occur.

Offer non-alcoholic beverages, a variety of foods and snacks and activities for your guests. Providing various alternatives to cannabis and alcohol give your guests choices and distractions that may limit their risk.

Legal points

In October of 2018 the Canadian government will decriminalize marijuana for recreational purposes. Contrary to what some people believe this does not mean that cannabis will be available to everyone everywhere with no restrictions.

The federal government has extended the initial date for the ruling in order that provincial and local governments can work to get laws and by-laws in place that will guide the transition from criminal to non-criminal standards.

As we get closer to the October transition, hosts should inform themselves of their local and provincial laws. Each province will have different approaches and interpretations.

For example the age limit for alcohol consumption, in BC that age is 19, while in Alberta it is 18. Take the time to check out websites for the federal, your provincial and local governments.

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If you are responsible for your workplace social events, consult with the legal department to ensure that your organization’s policies are up to date and consistent in how they are applied.

Here are a few websites to check out that might help you as you move forward.

When you are planning an office event or private party, there are a lot of factors to consider. Our professional event planners have years of experience with a wide variety of celebrations and parties.

At Simply Elegant we are pleased to offer our experience and support to hosts who are planning events. Contact our great team to assist you with ideas and advice for your upcoming event.