Media trainer and speaker Grant Ainsley recently published an article on the relationship between recreational marijuana legalization and the potential implications on an organization’s public relations. Hear what Grant identifies as PR challenges that may arise once cannabis use becomes legal.

What do you suggest companies do to prepare for the upcoming marijuana legalization?

Grant Ainsley: First of all, they need policies to deal with marijuana use, especially if they work in industries like construction and manufacturing where employees need to work with their hands or in high places. These companies should already have policies in place related to alcohol, so they can simply be expanded to include cannabis. If they don’t have policies related to drugs and alcohol, they need them now more than ever.

How will the legalization of cannabis affect an organization’s PR?

GA: Just because cannabis will become legal for reactional use in Canada on October 17, it doesn’t mean everyone will agree with it or feel the same confidence in somebody who celebrates the event in social media. As an example, what will the reaction be if a banker posts a video on Facebook showing him smoking a large joint? Will some of his customers question his judgement because of it? I’m not sure of the answer, but I do know perception is the reality for many people and the organizations they choose to do business with. I still see a PR downside coming for those who celebrate marijuana use in social media.

What are the main challenges for organizations regarding the upcoming legalization?

GA: Companies need to talk to their employees and let them know that although cannabis will be just as legal to use as alcohol, it will still take awhile before some of their customers feel comfortable with others using it. I’m not being judgmental when I say that, I’m just trying to foresee what’s going to happen.  There will be a few PR bumps in the road for several months.