The use of marijuana may be coming to your workplace as a prescribed medication. This issue challenges employers and employees to balance the human rights of an employee prescribed a medication with the health and safety issues linked to the use of that medication. What follows are some practical steps to resolve that conflict.
This balance of competing issues is a conversation that has occurred before. Employees have been prescribed other medications which may affect their work performance or judgment. The difference is that medications like Wellbutrin or Percocet do not have the stigma that is attached to marijuana.
Except when prescribed, marijuana is illegal to possess or to sell in many jurisdictions, and in the past has been completely banned from most workplaces. As a result employers and co-workers may be concerned about the use of marijuana at work even though other pain medications do not receive the same scrutiny.
As an employer or employee representative, opening up the conversation about medical marijuana is easier to do when there are no specific individuals with a current problem to solve. Don’t wait until this is a human rights or health and safety complaint.
Let’s get to specific practical steps to work through this issue.
- Gather information. What other policies does the employer have which are relevant? Workplace policies about other psychoactive drugs may be possible to extend to use of marijuana. What exactly are the health and safety risks associated with the use of marijuana in the various specific jobs in this workplace? How do other similar employers manage similar risks? How does this connect with the legal obligation, for example in Ontario, of an employee to report hazards in the workplace?
- Listen to them. If this is already a complaint, think about it objectively and try to separate the people involved from the path to the solution you are seeking. In order to find a solution you will need to consider fully and thoroughly as many points of view as you can. Separate past perceptions of marijuana use from the current reality of prescribed marijuana.
- Solve the problem together. If you find that the conversation is getting stuck here are some basic ideas to help move through difficulties.
Clarify what each affected person’s needs are – the employer, employee with marijuana prescription, co-workers, as well as customers, or members of the public who may be affected.
Have those needs been addressed?
Propose different ideas which address everyone’s concerns.
Propose a different process for negotiating, such as using an external mediator.
How can you be sure you have solved the problem?
This may not be a one-time solution but an evolving process to build effective workplace policies as more information becomes available about the uses and effects of marijuana. Keep the door open to refine and reconsider as understanding develops in your workplace as well as in general about the use of prescribed marijuana.
For more information about health and safety policy issues on this topic see http://www.hasco.ca/media/uploads/bulletins/Medical_Marijuana__Safety_Law.pdf