Free standard shipping for orders over $200

Medical cannabis at the workplace: An employer’s viewpoint

Medical cannabis at the workplace: An employer’s viewpoint

Medical marijuana, or medical cannabis, has seen an increase in its use not only in Australia but globally. With this trend looking to only go upwards in the near future, employers are urged to take into account its effects on the workplace and take precautionary measures to ensure that employees do not operate heavy machinery or take on any other work while under the influence of cannabis and other drugs.

Is medical cannabis legal in Australia?

Medical cannabis has been legal in Australia since 2016. Despite this, online surveys conducted in 2018 indicated that many Australians still consume illicit cannabis products. As of the time of writing, recreational use of marijuana is still considered a legal offence.

Growing, using and owning cannabis illegally in Australia can lead to fines and prison terms of up to 25 years and $200,000, depending on the amount of state and severity of the offence. 

How should employers deal with employees taking medical cannabis in the workplace?

Dealing with employees consuming medical cannabis is a sensitive and complex issue. Safety-sensitive industries would be more at risk as dangers could arise if employees are at the workplace under the influence of drugs or alcohol, even if for medical purposes.

Here’s what you should do when handling staff members consuming medical cannabis when at work:

Know the laws

It is the responsibility of the employer to be aware of the laws surrounding the use of drugs and other intoxicants at the workplace. When specifically pertaining to the use of medical cannabis, employers should refer to the Narcotic Drugs Amendment 2016.

Have a clear drug policy

Having a drug and alcohol testing policy is a crucial step in preventing their use at the workplace and preventing employees from appearing at work under the influence of drugs. The policy prepared should include clear guidelines on medical cannabis use and should be communicated to all employees and outline expectations and consequences. Having this outlined can cause a deterrent effect among team members.

Drug testing

Drug test kits from Andatech are able to detect THC, the psychoactive component found in marijuana. Regularly performing drug and alcohol testing at the workplace can help employers identify staff members who are working under the influence of drugs and alcohol and take appropriate action to avoid them being a danger to the workplace. Conducting regular drug testing can also act as a deterrent effect to stop employees from even thinking of drugs.

LEARN MORE: Urine vs Saliva drug testing

Engage in a discussion

If an employee has informed you of their use of medical cannabis, engage in an open and respectful dialogue with them. Ensure that they have relevant medical documentation and discuss potential accommodations. Always ensure the confidentiality of employees in these cases.

Documentation and legal consultation

Keep detailed records of all interactions and cases of employees using medical cannabis. This will also include evidence or prescription. It’s important to keep this information at hand as it can be crucial if legal issues arise. When in doubt, seek professional legal advice, as laws surrounding medical cannabis can be a complex one that is subject to change.

What are a medical cannabis patient’s rights as an employee?

The rights of an employee using medical cannabis at the workplace depend on the drug and alcohol policy of said workplace. However, employers cannot dismiss employees who hold a legal prescription for medical cannabis.

What precautionary steps should employers take?

Employers should take several precautionary steps to ensure that their employees steer clear of being impaired by medical cannabis or any other drug when at the workplace. As mentioned earlier, creating a clear and concise drug testing policy will help team members understand what can and cannot be tolerated in regard to substances at the workplace.

Educate your workforce about the company’s drug policy and ensure that they are aware of their rights and responsibilities as an employee. Be prepared to conduct dialogues for an interactive process with employees with medical marijuana prescriptions to allow them to perform their jobs safely.

Provide training for managers and HR staff on how to handle situations involving medical marijuana with sensitivity, compliance and confidentiality. Also mentioned earlier was the importance of documentation to ensure that all employees who use medical cannabis have a rightful prescription.

Lastly, just as employees should be educated on workplace drug policies, HR officials, employers and managers should also be regularly updated on the changes surrounding medical marijuana laws.

In short, below are precautionary steps employers should take in regard to team members using medical cannabis at the workplace:

  • Prepare clear drug and alcohol policies

  • Educate employees on drug and alcohol policies at your workplace

  • Be prepared to host dialogues with employees pertaining to the use of prescription drugs

  • Provide training to managers on how to deal with these situations

  • Ensure proper documentation of all team members with prescriptions

  • Stay aware of changes to medical marijuana laws

    Drug testing for medical cannabis

    The active ingredients found in medical cannabis are called cannabinoids. There are up to 100 different cannabinoids found in medical cannabis, with the most prominent of them being tetrahydrocannabinol or THC and cannabidiol, also known as CBD.

    DrugSense DSO8 Plus oral drug test kit for medical cannabis
    The DrugSense DSO8 Plus oral drug test kit detects THC particles in saliva samples

    Fortunately, drug test kits from Andatech are able to detect the presence of THC within a test subject’s urine or saliva sample to help employers or testing officials make informed decisions on their next viable step.

    It’s important to understand that urine drug test kits are suitable for detecting prolonged drug use in a test subject (including marijuana) and may detect the presence of drug metabolites even if the effects of the drug have already worn off.

    Saliva drug test kits, however, are able to detect more recent drug use and can be more effective at detecting impaired individuals when on the job.

    Explore Andatech’s range of urine and saliva drug test kits to find the most suitable tool to help with your drug testing needs.