Medical Marijuana and Workplace Drug Testing

Jul 15, 2015

Medical marijuana licenses are on the rise.


As discussed in the article Medical marijuana and workplace drug testing from Verify Diagnostics Inc. medical marijuana licenses are on the rise with the changes to the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) in April of last year. With the rise of licenses, marijuana use for medical conditions is becoming more common. As well with the recent news in Colorado with the Supreme Court voting in favour of firing an employee for marijuana use outside of the workplace, employers may be starting to think about implementing a workplace drug testing policy or updating their policy to be more specific on marijuana use. Employers in Canada will want to be accommodating to an illness; however, when an employee is in a safety-sensitive position, workplace medical marijuana use needs to be evaluated.


Current Workplace Drug Testing Policies

Canada does not have defined legislation in place for workplace drug & alcohol testing, so the task of creating a policy rests with the employer. Workplace policies should try to include provisions for prescription drugs, and if the position is a safety-sensitive role, it is even more important.

Part of a workplace policy should also include the employee’s responsibility to disclose the use of “mind-altering” prescription medications. This requirement for disclosure could be presented in something as simple as the letter of offer for safety-sensitive positions. If this stipulation is not made clear in an official workplace policy, an employee would not be required to disclose medical marijuana use to employers even though employees in safety sensitive positions normally do disclose this.

Medical Marijuana Drug Testing Best Practices

In general, an employer who has employees in safety-sensitive roles should look at implementing a comprehensive workplace drug testing policy. The policy should include language on the use of medically-prescribed marijuana. The policy should also include the responsibility of the employee to disclose marijuana use as well as a possible plan to move an employee to another position if available.

Because marijuana is considered a mind-altering drug, employers who have employees in safety-sensitive roles may want to include drug testing for marijuana in their workplaces. If it is not yet in a workplace policy and an employer is looking to add it now, the employer may want to test an employee’s THC levels to ensure they are within the medically prescribed limits. If the employee is above those limits, then the employer may want to make a decision on the employee’s ability to perform his or her job safely. As well, a positive test for marijuana use may create an opportunity for an open dialogue about moving the employee into a job role that is not safety-sensitive.

For the safety of the workplace, creating a workplace drug policy and developing an environment that facilitates open conversation about medical marijuana use is best so there are no surprises from the employee or employer and no risks to the safety of others.