What To Know About Medical Marijuana In The Workplace

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In Canada, recreational marijuana is quickly approaching, which forces the landscape for medical cannabis, which has been legal since 2001, to evolve once again.

Drew Demerse, partner at Vancouver-based law firm Roper Greyell, reported the first issue is how people will get marijuana post-legalization in spring 2018. He also adds that their needs to be a substantial decline in medical cannabis prescriptions from doctors to start, because getting it legally will be much simpler.

“The types of things that I see people getting prescribed medical marijuana for right now vary widely,” quoted Demerse. “For example, I had a client who had an employee who had been prescribed marijuana to treat insomnia, but the medical experts tell me marijuana is not an appropriate treatment for insomnia.”

Demerse has said that employers who think they may encounter issues with medical marijuana in the workplace should speak with an attorney, and look more into updating workplace guidelines around drug use right away. According to Health Canada, marijuana is the often used as an illicit substance in Canada and the second most used recreational drug in Canada following alcohol.

As of right now, more than 50,000 Canadians use medical cannabis, with Health Canada approximating that by 2024 more than 500,000 Canadians will use marijuana. Demerse, who was first called to the bar in 2006 in British Columbia after graduating from Dalhousie Law School, stated that human rights legislation permits employers to adjust employees’ disabilities. If cannabis is a necessity for that specific disability, Demerse continued with, the employee’s right to medicate with marijuana must be respected, to an extent.

“If you’re able to separate it from your workplace, you don’t present a safety risk, and your work doesn’t suffer from it,” he added, “then the employer has no business regulating it. The issue is really about accommodating necessary—and I emphasize the word necessary—treatments for those disabilities. So a prescription for medical marijuana does not entitle the employee to be impaired at work or compromise his or her safety, or the safety of others.”

Recreational and medicinal cannabis, both are offering unique difficulties for the legal system. The potency of marijuana can vary broadly, which leads to different effects on users. The effects of smoking marijuana can last between two to twenty-four or more hours, and as of late there are no testing techniques that can prove current impairment on the spot. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive element within marijuana, is fat-soluble and can be rid away days after consumption during exercise.

Demerse said it’s all about to one thing for both employees and employers.

“Just as an employer can say, ‘You can’t drink and come to work, you need to be sober.’ They can also say, ‘You can’t do any drug, legal or illegal, and come into the workplace if it’s going to do one of two things, cause a safety risk or lessen your productivity.’”

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