With legalization on the rise, it is important to understand the changes that will be happening within the landscape.

Medical marijuana first became medically recognized in Canada in 2001. Since its legalization, and with the recreational market launching this July, there has been an increase in wrongful termination. This has caused some problems for the workplace, as many employers have to update their policies and have more compassion for the growing number of users. Employers are already making rash decisions, and you should be consulting a lawyer if you feel anything suspicious is happening with your job security in relation to using medical marijuana.

According to Health Canada, “marijuana is the most commonly used illicit substance in Canada and the second most used recreational drug in Canada after alcohol. Currently, more than 50,000 Canadians use medical marijuana, with Health Canada estimating that by 2024 more than 500,000 Canadians will be users.”

There are so many things in place to protect you from narrow-minded employers, for example, human rights legislation requires employers to accommodate the disabilities of their employees’.

Basically, if you have a disease or disability it is your right as an employee to medicate with whatever you like (that has been prescribed to you) and if you find that your ailment is best treated with medical marijuana that is your right.

“If you’re able to separate it from your workplace, you don’t present a safety risk, and your work doesn’t suffer from it, then the employer has no business regulating it. The issue is really about accommodating necessary—and I emphasize the word necessary—treatments for those disabilities. So a prescription for medical marijuana does not entitle the employee to be impaired at work or compromise his or her safety, or the safety of others.”

The only grey area is that both recreational and medical marijuana have different potencies, come in different forms, and use different chemicals. This causes a variety of effects on its users, for example, high THC strains can make you ‘high’ and can last anywhere from 2-24+ hour’s. This is why your rights as an employee can be respected to only an extent- because if you are smoking high THC then you are a potential liability- and thus you can be fired.

There are also no current methods where people can test or prove current impairment on the spot like a breathalyzer. Basically, you can test positive if you are tested for THC even if you haven’t consumed it in weeks. THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in medical marijuana and is fat-soluble meaning it can exist in your blood for up to 30 days.

Federally, there is a legislative push for a cut-off- or limit that impairment can be presumed like roadside alcohol tests. This causes a problem at present because there is no standard for what is considered ‘impairment’.

Currently, there are 4 ways to test for marijuana: urine, blood, hair, and saliva. But the urine test is the most common for employers.

This is why it is important for you to have a lawyer if something happens to you in both the workplace or criminally. It is not enough for anyone to have a urine test to implicate you for impairment. The test cannot stand alone as a guilty charge- because medical marijuana can stay in your system for weeks.

It is important for employers and employees to consult a lawyer for medical marijuana in the workplace. Employers and the law need to update their policies around drug use. Especially when it is a prescribed medicine that is recognized by Health Canada.

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