No Easy Answers for Dealing with Medical Marijuana in the Workplace, say B.C. Experts

Article by Kim Pemberton, The Province

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A B.C. Human Rights Tribunal case involving a gymnastic coach suspended after co-workers claimed she was “stoned” at work when she used medical marijuana raises a difficult issue for employers, according to experts.

How do you balance the needs of an employee who requires medical marijuana with ensuring there is no “intoxication” at work, asks adjunct professor Mark Haden of the University of B.C.’s School of Population and Public Health.

“The real issue is impairment testing, and that’s hard to do right now. Urine analysis testing isn’t useful, since marijuana can be detected for 30 days — long after any psychological or physical effect has passed,” he said.

National policies on marijuana use are needed for the workplace, Haden said.

“It’s easier with alcohol because there isn’t ‘medical alcohol’ use. Cannabis is trickier to test. Once it becomes legal, these issues have to be solved very quickly.”

While it is clear people should not be allowed to create a dangerous environment at work, he said, employers can only determine through observation whether a person using medical marijuana is indeed intoxicated. There is no scientific test.

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