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So it's come to my attention that employers are becoming somewhat concerned about the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes and how that can impact the workplace. 

I guess the first thing that comes to mind is the story of the RCMP officer who was prescribed marijuana for anxiety and was being accommodated in the workplace.  Whether it's true or not, as so many stories out there are hard to believe, it is suggested that he was smoking the drug while at work.  As the story goes he was not "on duty" per se, but rather on some form of desk assignment.  One comedian suggested he had no problem smoking it but had a tough time buying it in uniform.  Funny, but still it raises some concerns on how this can be managed in a workplace.

First, make no mistake, there are benefits to using marijuana for pain, glaucoma and anxiety, but by the same token, make no mistake, there is an impairment that comes from its use, no matter the reason.  As I understand it, from talking to our addictions and substance abuse specialists, Joel Gervais and Rick Drennar, marijuana will impair judgment, decision making and most specifically depth perception. 

Anyone who's taken strong pain medications, even over the counter, the label says not to drive or operate heavy equipment.  It occurs to me that we need to treat marijuana in the same vein, like any other anxiety or pain medication, take with caution, and avoid driving and operation of heavy equipment.  Therefore we should look at this from a safety perspective, not legal nor should we be judgmental regarding the use of marijuana.  When we're looking to accommodate any employee these should be the considerations: can they perform the tasks of the job, given certain modifications, can they do so safely for them and for co-workers and/or customers, and does the modification or accommodation create an undue hardship for the employer. 

My opinion, in the example of the RCMP officer, is that the reputation of the police force would be a consideration in undue hardship and therefore if I were the employer I would ask if there were alternative medications that could have been as effective without the potential damage to the reputation of one of the worlds most recognizable and respected law enforcement agencies.  Whether that was asked or not I would have looked for an opinion on undue hardship related to their reputation. 

In the end we have to be cognizant of any drug, medication or even herbal remedies and the impact they have on individual's abilities to perform the duties of their position, accommodation or not, but particularly so when we're trying to accommodate and offer modified duties.

A drug is a drug is a drug.  Impairment can affect performance.  When accommodating employees, this must all be taken into consideration.

If you’re interested in training and education seminars on substances and addictions in the workplace, please contact Joel Gervais, our Addictions Program Manager: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.