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The Highs and Lows of Medicinal Cannabis in the Workplace

Published February 9, 2024 (last updated on July 4, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer

gloved scientist examines cannabis plant with face mask on

In Australia, medicinal cannabis is more than just a buzz, it's a prescription. Since 2016, Aussies with specific health conditions can access medicinal cannabis, but only with a doctor's prescription.

Remember, it's not a free for all. It's a highly regulated affair, much like your grandma's secret cookie recipe.

As the waves of change sweep across Australia, medicinal cannabis is making its mark not just in medicine cabinets but also in workplace safety protocols.

While this shift brings hope to many, it also introduces a new set of challenges for employers committed to ensuring a safety and legally compliant workplace.

Employers have a legal obligation to ensure a safe working environment for all employees. This includes managing the risks that could arise from an employee's use of medicinal cannabis, particularly in safety-sensitive roles.

Why? Because no one wants an employee operating heavy machinery while on a cosmic journey, even if its doctor recommended.

So, balancing of employee rights and workplace safety is challenging at the best of times, employers should consider reasonable adjustments or accommodations for employees legally using medicinal cannabis, when supported by medical advice.

However, these accommodations should not compromise workplace safety.

  • Employers should conduct risk assessments to identify and manage any potential workplace hazards related to the use of medicinal cannabis.

  • Employers should clearly define what constitutes impairment in the workplace and have a clear policy and procedure for managing situations where an employee might be impaired.

  • Regular training for staff and management should be conducted to ensure all are aware of the policies and procedures regarding impairment, including that which might arise from the use of medicinal cannabis.

  • Develop and maintain an emergency response plan that includes procedures for handling incidents related to impairment from medicinal cannabis use.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is medicinal cannabis use allowed in the workplace in Australia?
A: Medicinal cannabis use is legal in Australia with a valid prescription. However, its use in the workplace must align with company policies, especially in safety-sensitive roles. Employers are responsible for ensuring workplace safety and may set guidelines regarding its use.
How can employers accommodate medicinal cannabis users while ensuring workplace safety?

A: Employers can accommodate medicinal cannabis users by adapting work schedules, modifying job roles, or providing alternative tasks. However, safety should never be compromised. Clear policies, open communication, and regular risk assessments are crucial.

Do employees need to disclose their medicinal cannabis use to their employer?
A: Disclosure is encouraged, especially for roles that impact safety. Employers should provide a confidential process for disclosure and ensure employees that their privacy will be respected.
Can an employee using medicinal cannabis be dismissed for impairment at work?
A: If an employee is impaired at work and it affects their performance or workplace safety, disciplinary actions may be taken. However, employers must handle such situations carefully, considering the employee's medical condition and ensuring that actions are in line with company policy and legal provisions.
How should employers handle medicinal cannabis in their drug and alcohol policy?
A: Employers should update their drug and alcohol policies to specifically address medicinal cannabis. Policies should balance legal obligations, workplace safety, and the rights of employees using medicinal cannabis under medical guidance.
What should be included in training about medicinal cannabis for the workforce?
A: Training should cover the legal aspects of medicinal cannabis, company policies regarding its use, safety considerations, recognising impairment, and procedures for reporting and addressing concerns related to impairment.
Are employers required to perform drug testing for medicinal cannabis?
A: Employers may conduct drug testing as part of their workplace safety protocol. However, policies around drug testing should be clear, consistent, and respectful of employees' privacy and legal rights, especially concerning prescribed medicinal use.
What are the legal risks for employers regarding medicinal cannabis in the workplace?
A: Employers face legal risks if they fail to maintain a safe work environment or if they unjustly discriminate against employees using medicinal cannabis legally. It's important to balance safety requirements with respect for employees' legal medical treatment rights.
How can employers update their workplace safety policies to include medicinal cannabis considerations?
A; Employers should consult legal experts to ensure that their safety policies comprehensively address medicinal cannabis use, are compliant with current legislation, and provide clear guidelines for both management and staff.
What are the best practices for managing workplace safety concerning medicinal cannabis?
A: Best practices include staying informed about legal changes, creating clear and fair policies, promoting a culture of open communication, conducting regular risk assessments, providing comprehensive training, and ensuring any disciplinary actions are fair and in line with company policy and legal standards.

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