Navigating the Complex Landscape of Medical Cannabis and Employment: A Comparative Look at Canada and the US blog post

Explore the complex intersection of medical cannabis and employment laws in Canada and the US. Understand the rights and responsibilities of both employers and employees. post description.

David Johnson

6/15/20234 min read

red cannabis leaf on  legal parchment
red cannabis leaf on  legal parchment

Introduction

The intersection of medical cannabis and employment is a complex and evolving area of law, particularly in countries like Canada and the United States where medical cannabis is legal. This article will delve into the intricacies of this subject, providing a general overview of the laws and then focusing on the specifics for both Canada and the US.

Medical Cannabis and Employment: The General Landscape

Medical cannabis has been recognized for its therapeutic benefits in managing a variety of health conditions. However, its use in the context of employment presents a myriad of legal and ethical challenges. Employers are often caught in a delicate balancing act, trying to respect the rights of employees who are medical cannabis patients while ensuring a safe and productive workplace.

In many jurisdictions, employers are legally obligated to provide reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities, including those using medically-prescribed marijuana. However, this obligation is not absolute and must be balanced against the employer's duty to maintain a safe work environment, particularly in safety-sensitive workplaces.

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Medical Cannabis and Employment in the US

In the United States, the legal landscape surrounding medical cannabis and employment is complex and varies significantly from state to state. Despite the legalization of medical cannabis in many states, it remains illegal under federal law. This discrepancy creates a unique set of challenges for both employers and employees.

For instance, medical marijuana is not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which means employers are not required to make accommodations for its use. However, some states have passed laws protecting medical cannabis patients from adverse employment actions based on failed drug tests.

Moreover, several states have passed or are considering laws expanding protections for off-duty recreational and medical use of marijuana by employees. These laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees for their off-duty use of medical cannabis. However, employees working in safety-sensitive positions might not be permitted to use marijuana at all, even if it's for medical purposes.

Medical Cannabis and Employment in Canada

In Canada, the legal framework surrounding medical cannabis and employment is somewhat different. Medical cannabis has been legal in Canada since 2001, and recreational cannabis was legalized in 2018. Despite this, the use of cannabis, whether medical or recreational, in the workplace is generally not permitted.

Employers in Canada have a duty to accommodate employees who have been prescribed medical cannabis up to the point of undue hardship. This could include modifying work duties or hours, or allowing for breaks for the administration of medical cannabis. However, this does not mean that employees have an absolute right to use cannabis at work, especially if it impairs their ability to perform their duties safely.

Conclusion

Navigating the intersection of medical cannabis and employment is a complex task that requires a nuanced understanding of the evolving legal landscape. Both employers and employees must stay informed about their rights and responsibilities to ensure a fair and respectful workplace.

Medical Cannabis and Employment in Canada: A Closer Look

In Canada, the legal landscape surrounding medical cannabis and employment is somewhat different. Medical cannabis has been legal in Canada since 2001, and recreational cannabis was legalized in 2018. Despite this, the use of cannabis, whether medical or recreational, in the workplace is generally not permitted.

Employers in Canada have a duty to accommodate employees who have been prescribed medical cannabis up to the point of undue hardship. This could include modifying work duties or hours, or allowing for breaks for the administration of medical cannabis. However, this does not mean that employees have an absolute right to use cannabis at work, especially if it impairs their ability to perform their duties safely.

In Canada, the duty to accommodate extends to medical marijuana use under provincial and federal human rights legislation. However, accommodation is required but limits apply such as no entitlement to impairment at work or compromising safety. Employers may need to revisit policies on drug/alcohol use considering duty to accommodate vs. workplace safety obligations.

Testing for drug and alcohol use remains a contentious issue in Canadian workplace law. Three cases shed light on how employers should balance competing obligations when accommodating employees who use medical marijuana. Changes to the legal status of marijuana create unprecedented challenges for employers. Zero tolerance workplace policies for marijuana use/possession may become unenforceable; employees may request coverage for medical marijuana prescriptions under health/benefits plans.

Conclusion

Navigating the intersection of medical cannabis and employment is a complex task that requires a nuanced understanding of the evolving legal landscape. Both employers and employees must stay informed about their rights and responsibilities to ensure a fair and respectful workplace.