As Canadians become progressively more educated around the medical applications of cannabis, it has become a treatment of choice for many to gain control over pain, sleep, mood and the many diseases and discomforts that find their root in inflammation.
Medical cannabis was legalized 17 years ago, yet a few tricky considerations remain in the workplace. Policy, in many places of employment, is still unclear. One of the biggest hurdles is, unlike with alcohol, there is no test for cannabis ‘THC impairment.’ A urine test or mouth swab will indicate recent THC use but can’t measure active THC impairment, or quantity and time of use.
There is current legislation declaring that people have the right to access legally prescribed cannabis, which may be prescribed in cases of chronic pain, insomnia, headaches, anxiety, etc… Federal law states that employers have a duty to accommodate their employees’ medically prescribed needs; and, also that employees holding safety-sensitive positions cannot be impaired at work, and must disclose medical cannabis use if they hold a safety-sensitive position. Federal law also states that everyone has the right to a safe work place. If someone is impaired through drug or alcohol use at work, that safe work place is threatened.
Worth noting, is that ‘impairment’ does not necessarily follow cannabis use. Ingestion methods, strains, times, doses all need to be considered on a case-by-case basis to determine the possibility of impairment at work. Policy and education must be clear and informed so that employees are confident that they can disclose their dosing regime without fear of punitive action or being discriminated against. Zero tolerance policies are outdated and, in effect, are at odds with Canadian Human Rights Legislation.
For these reasons, education and open dialogue is key. HR personnel and policy makers will best serve their employers and employees by establishing and setting forth clear guidelines and expectations. By ensuring due diligence on a case-by-case basis with their employees, it can be determined whether there is any danger of impairment at work. Typically, there is not, as the employee is either treating their conditions with the non-psychoactive CBD by day or using THC at night for pain or insomnia (impairment causing THC clears the bloodstream within 3-6 hours). The most common test, the urine test, will detect minute amounts of THC up to a few weeks after ingestion. This test is helpful in establishing past use, but not current impairment.
“[Marijuana] doesn’t have a high potential for abuse, and there are very legitimate medical applications. In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works… [It] is irresponsible not to provide the best care we can as a medical community, care that could involve marijuana. We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years… and I apologize for my own role in that.”
~ Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Medical Investigator
Employee dosing regimes that are clear and that define methods of ingestion, timing, amount and type of strain can help guarantee that there is no impairment at work. In some cases, company policy is satisfied if the prescription states ‘night-time use only.’ Essentially all adverse effects can be controlled by careful and informed dosages. As mentioned, if an employee is using THC at night for pain or insomnia, there is no impairment by the following morning. That employee may have a more productive, rested day at work. Another employee may have chronic back pain and be prescribed non-psychoactive CBD oil to ingest during the day, thus allowing them to remain clear headed and pain free, and, as there is no impairment with CBD, even able to operate heavy machinery. In this case, it’s likely that a safer and more productive work environment exists due to pain management through cannabis.
Staff and management working together through education and communication, and clear and fair policy based on current legislation will result in the safest, most productive, mentally and physically healthy workplace.