Know Your Rights: Medical Marijuana In The Workplace
On July 1st, 2018, recreational cannabis will be legalized in Canada.
When medical marijuana is prescribed to a patient, it is considered in the same class as any other prescription drug. If you were given antibiotics for an ear infection, you would take them as directed. If you were given medication to control your blood pressure, you would also only take it as prescribed.
The same goes for medical marijuana. However, when you are on antibiotics or blood pressure medication, you do not have to disclose this information to your employer. You are required to disclose prescribed cannabis use.
Medical marijuana in the workplace
Your employer cannot discriminate against you for having a prescription for medical marijuana as per the Human Rights Code. This legislation protect us from discrimination in the workplace, including the use of prescribed medical cannabis.
Your employer cannot simply fire you because you are using medicinal cannabis to treat an injury or disorder. But, if you require accommodations, your employer does need to be aware if you are using cannabis at the workplace.
Your employer may prohibit the use of recreational cannabis during work hours, and attending work impaired.
This is to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you. Your physician is not allowed to reveal details of your medical history, ongoing treatment or any other personal information to your employer without your consent.
The employer can ask your physician or the independent examiner the following questions:
- Will my employee have the ability to perform their job tasks safely? For example, if your job requires you to work heavy machinery, your employer will explain this to the physician/examiner.
- Does the consumption of medical marijuana influence my employee’s cognitive ability or judgement while they are under the influence of this medication?
- Are there other side effects of the medical condition being treated with medical marijuana that I should also consider and how can I better accommodate my employee should these side effects occur?
What can your employer NOT do?
Your employer must accommodate until the point of undue hardship. This includes allowing employees to step outside to vaporize medicine, and the revision of duties to accommodate the condition. Your employer cannot, however, create a new, tailored position but should rather ensure tasks respect the known limitations of the employee.
Furthermore, an employee cannot be fired for using medicinal marijuana if they have a prescription. Moreover, all drug testing must be random and the employer must have sufficient evidence that the employee is impaired. Testing may be conducted after an incident, a part of rehabilitation, or as a precondition to employment, a promotion or a transfer.
The only time your employer can seek action against you or let you go is with cause – for example, if your consumption of medical marijuana has tampered with your ability produce quality work. Or, if you are impaired while on the job and are putting the safety of yourself and others at risk.
How and where do you consume your medication at work?
If your employer has designated an area for you to take your medication, please respect that decision. If your prescription is delivered in the form of a spray, drops or edibles, your employer may not designate a specific area for you and allow you to consume your medication where you see fit.
It’s important to note that a cannabis prescription does not entitle an employee to smoke or vaporize in the workplace.
Important facts about medical marijuana in the workplace:
- You cannot share your prescription of medical marijuana with coworkers (or anyone for that matter). The prescription is based on your pain management needs and may be too strong for others even if they claim to have been injured too. The quality of medical marijuana is far superior to those of the illegal version and is not designed for recreational use.
- If you feel like your judgement and cognitive abilities have been impaired by the use of medical marijuana, tell your supervisor immediately. Do not keep working if you feel dizzy or lightheaded, no matter what your job entails. Many people assume that because the do not operate heavy machinery they can fight through the side effects of medicinal cannabis. Even if you sit at a desk, the moment you feel out of sorts from using your prescribed medical marijuana, let your superior know.
- A medical cannabis prescription does not entitle an employee to unexcused absences or late arrivals to work.
- In the Province of Ontario, e-cigarettes and vaporizers are banned where smoking is already prohibited.
- Health Spending Accounts are the preferred benefits option for employees as medical cannabis is not currently covered under traditional drug plans.
Please contact us for more information regarding medical cannabis at the workplace.