Articel by Elianna Lev, Lift News
There are more than 235,000 Canadians registered with Health Canada to access medicinal cannabis. As that number grows, some are learning that having medical authorization from a doctor to use the drug can complicate matters in the workplace.
Some patients who have disclosed medical cannabis use to their employers are asked to answer questions about their diagnosis, dose amounts, strains, frequency of use and potential alternative treatments to cannabis. Some say their employers have contacted their doctors to probe even further into the employee’s personal information.
Do you have the right to refuse, or does your employer have the right to access your health information and treatment?
Understanding workplace restrictions
Alison McMahon is the CEO of Cannabis at Work, a group that educates employers about recreational and medical cannabis legalization. She says the bottom line is that cannabis has the potential to lead to impairment, which isn’t allowed at work. That especially applies to employees with safety-sensitive positions, such as public transportation drivers or those who operate heavy machinery.
“When we’re talking about a person who’s been prescribed a medication with impairment-causing effects, such as cannabis, the employer has a duty to accommodate to the point of undue hardship,” she tells Lift. “That’s per the Human Rights legislation.”
Some employers might understand the nuances of cannabis strains and compounds, like the difference between THC, which can cause impairment, and CBD, which does not. However, McMahon says employers are still required to go through a full assessment of the individual to understand if there are any workplace restrictions.
“Just because the employee is coming forward and saying ‘I have a prescription but I’m using CBD,’ it doesn’t negate the employer’s responsibility to go and get medical information from the physician to understand the employee’s prognosis, any work restrictions or if there’s any impact on them to safely do their job,” she says.