For decades, employers have had zero-tolerance drug policies that included marijuana. It's now a prescribed medication for a number of conditions, so the zero tolerance drug policy on marijuana use needs to be updated.

Medical marijuana must be treated like any other prescription medication. Here are some of the key points for employees and employers to consider:

  • Employers should have a drug and alcohol policy regardless of the nature of the workplace. These policies do not only apply to employers with safety-sensitive workplaces. Any employee can legally use medical marijuana and already having a procedure in place for dealing with it will be a big advantage if you find yourself employing a cannabis patient.
  • Drug policies should require employees in safety-sensitive positions to report the use of prescription medication that could cause impairment (i.e. marijuana).
  • An employee who holds a safety-sensitive position is required by Occupation Health & Safety legislation to report hazards in the workplace, including their own impairment as a result of medical marijuana use.
  • An employee who does not hold a safety-sensitive position is not required to disclose their use of medical cannabis.
  • If an employee who holds a safety-sensitive position discloses they are using medical cannabis, the employer should request medical documentation that speaks to the ability to safely do their job. This will help inform the accommodation process.
  • Employers should explicitly state that failing to report the use of medical marijuana by an employee who holds a safety-sensitive position will result in disciplinary action.
  • Employers should have an open dialogue with the employee about their consumption method if they are concerned about the employee smoking the cannabis. Smoking bylaws remain in effect.
  • If the accommodation requires certain equipment (i.e. a vaporizer), the employer may be required to cover the cost of the device.
  • Employers should consider creating guidelines on how medical marijuana can and cannot be used in the workplace. Keep in mind that accommodation is situational, so these policies cannot be too rigid and must allow for individual circumstances to be accommodated.

Use these tips to craft and implement a modern drug policy. Educate both your managers and employees about their rights and responsibilities. It will go a long way in facilitating a smooth process if you are required to accommodate medical marijuana in your workplace.

Alison McMahon is a workplace expert based in Alberta, Canada and the Founder of Cannabis At Work. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn where she provides overdue commentary on weed + work.