What You Need To Know About Medical Marijuana

Many people are prescribed marijuana to cope with health conditions, such as chronic pain, cancer, and sleeping disorders.  As the number of prescribed users increases, more employees may be requesting to use it at work.  Below is a list of things employers and employees need to know when navigating the issue of medical marijuana in the workplace.

What employers need to know:

  • Employers must make efforts to accommodate employees using prescription marijuana.  Ontario’s Human Rights Code (“Code”) requires employers to accommodate their employees’ disabilities up to the point of undue hardship.  Since the medical condition underlying an employee’s use of marijuana will likely fall within the definition of “disability” under the Code, an employer’s obligation to accommodate extends to the use of licensed marijuana in the workplace.  Accommodation must be explored before the employer seeks to fire the employee – even if the employee is not able to perform the job in the same way as before.
  • Employers must consider how the use of medicinal marijuana will impact the safety of the workplace.  Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect their workers.  Employers should therefore making inquiries of the employee to ensure that he or she can safely perform the job.  If the employee cannot carry out his or her job safely, the employer is not necessarily required to accommodate the use of medical marijuana at work.  This is especially so where the employee’s position involves the use of safety sensitive equipment.  Even in such circumstances, however, employers should explore alternative methods to accommodate the employee – such as providing a leave of absence to undergo medical marijuana treatment, or moving the employee to a position that would not pose safety risks to the workplace.

What employees need to know:

  • Employees have a right to have their disabilities, which may require the use of medical marijuana, accommodated in the workplace.  Accordingly, employees are encouraged to disclose their use of medical marijuana to their employers and ask that it be accommodated.  This will trigger the employer’s accommodation obligations and ensure that the protections of the Code are engaged.
  • Employees do not have a right to endanger the health and safety of the workplace.  So, when seeking accommodation, employees should provide their employers with medical documentation addressing their abilities to perform their jobs safely.  This will address any questions the employer may have about how the use of medical marijuana will impact the health and safety of its workers.
  • Employees are required to cooperate with their employers’ accommodation process.  This means that, if the employer proposes accommodation that is reasonable, the employee is required to accept the proposal.

If you would like to know more about the use of medical marijuana in the workplace, contact one of our lawyers today.

Author: Ozlem Yucel, Whitten & Lublin