Medical Cannabis at Work: Is it Allowed?

< Back to all articles

With more than 330,000 Canadians registered to access medical cannabis, you can suspect that some of them may need to take their prescription while at work. Previously, such an action was prohibited but now the political landscape is changing, and employers will need to adjust accordingly.

So what does this mean for you? Such a sensitive issue needs to be taken as a case by case basis. For most organizations, employers are able to define what the rules and stipulations are in their employment contracts and policies and procedures. Taking medical cannabis at work may continue to be treated in very much the same way the consumption of alcohol is currently addressed. This means employers will have the right to prohibit the use of cannabis during work hours, and violations of this could lead to termination.

However, thanks to recent studies and research, it is becoming more well-known that there are legitimately recognized medical uses of cannabis, which in turn makes such company regulations more complex.

In order to keep up with legislation, employers must amend existing workplace policies either permitting the medical use of cannabis in the workplace or exercise their right to prohibit impairment on the job, especially in safety-sensitive positions. Some cannabis effects can lead to impairment of motor skills and concentration, causing your productivity to significantly decrease, which needs to be recognized by both the employer and employee.

However, employers must also be mindful if the employee is using cannabis to treat an illness or medical condition. Employers have a duty to accommodate disabled employees, and medical cannabis can be used to treat medical conditions that can constitute a “disability”. Such accommodation efforts will depend on a number of factors including the financial ability to accommodate, the type of work performed and the impact of cannabis use on the employee’s essential duties.

Being Open with your Employer

If you are a medical cannabis patient working in a safety-sensitive job or in a non-safety sensitive role and need to dose with your medical cannabis during your workday, you may have a duty to disclose your prescription to your employer. Karen Stokke, Learning Manager at Cannabis At Work, a company that offers cannabis industry and workplace impairment training, says “employers have to be open to have that conversation with their employees, and have a duty to accommodate to the point of undue hardship.” The employee may be required to provide medical documentation outlining their dosing schedule and go through a medical assessment to determine if the employee would still be fit for duty if they are using their medication. “If a worker has disclosed their prescription to their employer and are terminated, they may be able to file a complaint with the human rights commission,” says Karen. “Employees should know that there is legislation to protect them on this sensitive issue.”

If you are approved to consume cannabis at work, keep these tips in mind as to not distract your co-workers:

  • Use a vaporizer instead of smoking at work. This will mitigate any strong smells, that are often disruptive to others around you.
  • Consume cannabis through edibles or oils. This eliminates the need to smoke or vape in a public setting.
  • Keep it private and professional. When transporting your medical cannabis to work, use a scent proof container and put it in a discreet bag to avoid unwanted attention.

The Future of Cannabis in the Workplace

With the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada, how cannabis will be handled in the workplace will be an unprecedented challenge for employers. However, with proactive planning, the updates and transitions required can be smooth and simple.

To accommodate an employee who uses medical cannabis, it’s advised that an employer looks at current policies around accommodating any other employee who has been prescribed drugs that may impair his or her work. Alternatively, to limit or ban the use of non-medical cannabis at work, an employer can look to existing practices related to the use of alcohol or illicit drug use.

With complete cannabis legalization underway, these uncertainties will be reviewed and litigated. Until then, be transparent with your employer and find ways to work together to make your workplace safe, efficient and happy.

< Previous PostMedical Cannabis: Knowing your Rights and the Rules to Follow Next Post >5 Support Groups for Cannabis Patients