Is Medical Marijuana a Safety Hazard?

As the use of medical marijuana becomes a more popular alternative to other prescription pain relievers, employers are asking the question: how will this impact the workplace? Canadians who previously were required to have a license to obtain medical marijuana may now obtain it with a simple prescription. Should medical marijuana therefore be treated like any other prescription drug by employers? It is hard to say; however, both employee and employer are responsible for ensuring a safe workplace.

Medical Marijuana and the Ontario Human Rights Code

According to section 5.1 of the Human Rights Code, employers may not discriminate against an employee because of a disability. Medical marijuana may be prescribed to employees for a number of reasons including pain management, cancer, arthritis, or sleeping disorders.

Employers must accommodate disabled employees provided that it does not cause them undue hardship. The three factors that are used to determine undue hardship are:

  • Cost of accommodation
  • Available subsidies to help with the cost of accommodation
  • Any health and safety concerns that may be caused by accommodation

Medical Marijuana and the Occupational Health and Safety Act

When discussing medical marijuana in the workplace, it is also important to consider how it aligns with the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Employees do not have the right to be impaired by marijuana or any other drug at work if it will endanger their safety or the safety of others.

An employer may require that medical documentation be presented to confirm whether an employee can still safely carry out their duties while taking medical marijuana. If the employee works in a safety sensitive position, they have a duty to inform their employer if they will be taking prescription marijuana.

Employers should be cautious when it comes to the termination of an employee for use of medical marijuana without first taking the appropriate steps to determine how it will affect job performance as the termination will likely be ruled inappropriate.

Creating a Workplace Policy on Medical Marijuana 

Policies relating to medical marijuana in the workplace should be similar to policies that deal with other prescription drugs. Employers need to clearly communicate with their employees about their entitlements and obligations concerning the use of or being under the influence of medical marijuana, as well as the consequence for non-compliance. Terms such as “impairment” must be clearly defined so that employees can determine whether their use might fall within the scope of the policy.

By creating a formal policy and engaging employees early in the process, employers are much more likely to avoid potential safety incidents and litigation that might result from the use of medical marijuana in the workplace.

If you require assistance in developing such as policy for your workplace, call the team at TeksMed today at 1-877-850-1021.