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The Cannabis Act made recreational cannabis legal across all of Canada in October 2018. Ahead of legalization, many stakeholders reviewed their policies towards the use of cannabis. The insurance industry, for example, reviewed its policies about impaired driving and smoke and mould damage to homes as a result of cannabis use or the cultivation of cannabis plants.

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Employers were quick to review their policies about drug use in the workplace. The Cannabis Act allowed them the leeway to issue their own policies about employees using cannabis while at work.

These policies have concerned many medical cannabis patients. If you use medical marijuana, here’s what you need to know about cannabis in the workplace.


Use Restriction Policies Don’t Apply to Medical Cannabis

Patients using medical marijuana can rest assured that the updated and revised workplace policies about recreational cannabis don’t apply to them.

Current Canadian law states employers must accommodate employees who use cannabis for legitimate medical purposes. If you have an authorization for medical cannabis, you’re allowed to use it as authorized.

If your use of medical marijuana affects your ability to perform your duties, the onus is on your employer to find suitable modified duties for you. For example, a forklift operator may be given modified duties so they don’t have to operate a motorized vehicle in the workplace.


Employers Can Restrict Where You Use Cannabis

One thing employers can do is restrict where you utilize medical marijuana around the workplace. For example, you may not be allowed to smoke inside the building or near entrances and exits.

This is in compliance with legislation in several provinces about keeping workplaces and other buildings smoke-free.

Employers will need to accommodate you, however, by providing somewhere for you to use medical marijuana. This may include a space or shelter away from doorways and windows. There are fewer restrictions on other methods of using medical marijuana, such as cannabis oils. These methods are preferable to smoking anyway.


You Cannot Be Reprimanded or Fired

Under new workplace cannabis policies, employees who use cannabis in the workplace, during work hours, or who arrived to work impaired may be reprimanded or even dismissed. Medical marijuana patients, on the other hand, are exempt.

You’ll need to provide documentation to your employer. This could include a copy of your authorization and a note from a medical professional, detailing why you need medical cannabis and how you’ve been directed to use it.

Employers who refuse to accommodate your medical use could find themselves in legal hot water.


You Should Be Considerate of Your Co-Workers

Essentially, medical marijuana patients have a legitimate reason to use cannabis in the workplace, and their employers have a duty to accommodate them. You should still be considerate of your co-workers.

This means you should comply with any rules about where to use your medication. You may wish to be discreet about your use anyway. Next, you should also use your medication as directed to minimize impairment as much as possible.

If you are unable to complete a task or require help, ask your co-workers. Observing safety protocols should be one of your top priorities. You have the right to refuse unsafe work, even if your employer won’t provide modified duties.


Your Benefits May Soon Cover Medical Marijuana

One other thing medical marijuana patients may want to note is that many major insurance companies are expanding coverage to include medical cannabis. Sun Life already expanded their coverage in February 2018, and other insurance companies are set to follow.

Ask your employer if they’ll consider adding this coverage to your medical benefits package or making it an option for you and your co-workers.


why-more-patients-are-turning-to-cannabis-for-pain-relief

Dr. Michael Verbora

Michael earned an MBA from the University of Windsor’s Odette School of Business in 2009 and an M.D. from Schulich School of Medicine at Western University in 2013, before entering a Family Practice residency at the University of Toronto. A member of the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids, Doctors for Responsible Access and the Canadian Pain Society, he has completed over 2,000 cannabinoid therapy consultations and has presented many talks in community and hospital settings while serving as student health physician at Seneca College and Medical Director, Canabo Medical Clinic.

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