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Medicinal marihuana in the workplace

medical-marijuana2Over the years, workplaces all over Canada have seen many different issues, in particular regarding smoking and narcotic prescription drugs. The most recent issue workplaces are struggling with is medicinal marihuana. There is a lot of stigma around using marihuana for medicinal purposes, so you can only imagine how people would feel about using it in the workplace. Marihuana is scarcely viewed as a medicine, which is the biggest issue. Marihuana is viewed as an illegal drug, so who would think its ok to do drugs at work?

The truth about medicinal marihuana is that there is a possibility that it could be unsettling to the workplace. However, it’s the employer’s responsibility to accommodate both the user and the rest of the employees in compliance with the Human Rights Code. The Code states that disabled employees (not just visually, but mentally or invisible illnesses) must be accommodated in the workplace. So how can you accommodate an employee? Some things an employer could do would be providing more frequent breaks, alternate duties, adjusting the individual’s work schedule, and possibly instating a smoking zone for medicinal marihuana. It may seem troublesome, but in the end, if you were to put yourself in the shoes of the employee using the medicinal marihuana, it means a lot; it’s also the law.

Here is an example of someone who required medicinal marihuana at a workplace; take a moment to observe the reactions of the people he worked with. This case is about the now deceased Cpl. Ronald Francis, (deceased October 6th 2014 at around 4pm due to an unconfirmed suicide, age 43). He was a Canadian Mounted Police Officer and had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He was using his prescribed medicinal marihuana to cope with his PTSD; when he smoked medicinal marihuana in his RCMP ceremonial serge to bring awareness to Mounties with PTSD, he was stripped of his uniform. According to the police, the RCMP sent officers to check on him after he had his uniform revoked and during the visit, he attacked them. He was then supposed to go to court, but he took his own life instead. “The uncharacteristic actions that resulted in his appearance before the court were in my opinion … a cry for help from someone desperately trying to deal with the ravages of post-traumatic stress syndrome.” ( This shows one of the most severe consequences that could happen if an employer is insensitive about their employee’s needs.

Another example of why it’s important to accommodate medicinal marihuana users as any other person who requires a narcotic prescription would be because sometimes marihuana really is the only option. This can be seen in the case of Cpl. Ronald Francis as he needed it to control his PTSD enough to continue on with his day as normal.

This and many other case studies show why it’s important to accommodate medicinal marihuana users, but also if you just think about how it would feel if you were in that position, requiring medicinal marihuana as a legitimate medicine, and you were treated as a faker or your employer wouldn’t let you work because you “do drugs at work”. Next time you feel like it’s too tedious to accommodate them or you feel like they’re just abusing their rights, consider how difficult it is for them and consider the cost associated with disregarding the law.

Beyond Rewards Inc

Human Resources and Risk Management Consultants and Training Provider at Beyond Rewards Inc
Beyond Rewards is a boutique firm offering a full suite of Human Resource, Safety, Workplace investigations, Accessibility Standards and Risk Management solutions, online training programs and customized face to face training for our clients. Several exceptional expert consultants led by Lynne Bard, HBa, CHRP, CES, President/Senior Consultant,will be blogging regularly on First Reference Talks on behalf of Beyond Rewards Inc. Read more here.

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