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Cannabis in the Workplace: What Employers Need to Know

Over the last several years, medical cannabis has become a popular alternative to many potentially more dangerous prescription drugs such as opioids, and now that recreational cannabis has been legalized, some employers are wondering how this might affect their places of business. 

The first thing that employers should know about cannabis in the workplace is that employees do not have a right to be high at work – just like they do not exercise the right to be drunk at work. Just because a substance is legal, does not mean that it must be permissible in the workplace. 

As an employer, if you feel that marijuana might be an issue for your employees, then you should take the time to review your drug and alcohol policy with them. According to Federal regulations, the duty to ensure safety in the workplace must be shared by both the employer and the employee. This is true in the case of cannabis – whether it is recreational or medical. 

What about the “Duty to Accommodate”? 

Section 5.1 of the Human Rights Code makes it clear that employers may not discriminate against an employee because they have a disability. In this regard, employers must treat medical marijuana the same way that they would treat any other prescription drug. 

In other words, employers must accommodate an employee with a prescription for medical marijuana provided that it does not cause the employer undue hardship. Conditions that determine undue hardship include the cost to accommodate, available subsidies to help with that cost and health and safety concerns that may arise from the accommodation. 

For example, it may be found that allowing an employee with a desk job to take a dose of medical cannabis during his lunch break falls within an employer’s duty to accommodate, but allowing an employee who operates machinery to take medical cannabis during work hours does not. 

Medical Cannabis and Workplace Safety

Since there are many different types of medical cannabis which can cause various levels of impairment ranging from little to no impairment to significant impairment, an employer may require the employee to provide documentation from a medical professional stating whether they are able to safely carry out their duties while taking their prescription. And if an employee works in a position where safety is a concern, they have the duty to inform their employer of any condition or medication they are taking which may adversely affect workplace safety. 

Finding the Right Balance

In conclusion, when it comes to cannabis in the workplace, employers should treat recreational cannabis in a similar manner to which they would treat alcohol and make it clear to employees that smoking or otherwise ingesting marijuana at work, or coming to work high will not be tolerated. 

Medical cannabis is a different story. Employers will have to work with employees and if possible accommodate their needs while still protecting the safety of their entire staff. 

If you are an employer and would like more detailed information on accommodating employees who take medicinal marijuana, contact TeksMed today! 

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