Canadian Contractor

Job-related pain (Part One): Weed on the work site

What happens when medical marijuana is prescribed for chronic pain?

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March 24, 2017 by John Bleasby

This week, I start a new series about body stress and strain in construction, how pain is being treated by medication and the associated risks, and preventive measures available to workers and employers.

You suffer from chronic back pain, the result of a motorcycle accident a few years ago. You have a prescription for medical marijuana. However, you’re worried about your right to smoke on the work site and whether it will get you fired or arrested.

Both employees and employers need to know their rights and obligations.

Is it legal to use medical marijuana on the work site?
Employers: Tread carefully before jumping to any conclusions. Medical marijuana must be treated like any other prescription drug in most workplace scenarios. Usage is growing. Health Canada projects that the number of legal marijuana users in Canada could grow to as many as 450,000 in the next decade.

Workers: The first thing you should do is tell your employer about your prescription, and offer a note from your doctor detailing the nature of your condition. Concealing your use of medical marijuana could lead to termination with cause.

Is it safe?
Employers: Confirm that your employee can continue in their current work function, both from a safety and a physical limitations perspective. The employer must not discriminate against the employee, and in fact must accommodate the worker’s situation, even to the point of transferring him/her to another function.

Workers: Be smart. If you feel that using medical marijuana to treat your condition affects your cognitive abilities to operate equipment or perform effectively, be honest and say so. Be prepared to have your function altered if the employer feels safety is at risk. If the employer has a non-smoking policy, be prepared to take your medical marijuana in a non-smoking, non-vaporized form, possibly as tea or skin patches.

‘Do’s’ and ‘Don’ts’ on site
Employers: While you may continue to enforce company non-smoking policies, you may wish to consider allowing more frequent breaks for the employee, moving them to less safety-sensitive environments, or altering their schedule or duties. Their overall ‘fitness for duty’ may need to be assessed in consultation with the employee’s doctor.

Workers: A marijuana prescription does not entitle you to be high on the job, have the quality of your work compromised, or excuse you from being late or absent from work.

What about drug benefit coverage?
Given the direction of marijuana laws now and in the foreseeable future, it may not be possible for employers to enforce a zero-tolerance marijuana policy on their workers unless safety is impaired. It is also foreseeable that employees may begin to request coverage of their marijuana prescriptions through the company’s health benefit plan.

A specific case in Nova Scotia recently determined that denying coverage for medical marijuana under a company’s health plan amounted to discrimination under the province’s Human Rights Act.

In addition, the denial of coverage was found to be “inconsistent with the purpose of the benefit plan and had the adverse effect of depriving [the employee] of the medically necessary drug prescribed by a physician, even though the [benefit plan] covered other special requests for medically-necessary drugs prescribed by physicians for other beneficiaries.”

Although it may come down to a case-by-case assessment of a given health plan, it might be advisable for employers to look into the specifics of the plans currently offered to their workers.

Part Two : The opioid pain medication crisis in construction
Read Part Three (Prevention is better than cure)

Part Three (tomorrow): Specific measures to avoid musculoskeletal injury on work sites

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2 Comments » for Job-related pain (Part One): Weed on the work site
  1. Rob says:

    The problem with smoking is the smell….and the last thing the client wants to smell is dope. If you are in a clients home, smoking is not an option. Been there, got the t-shirt

  2. Oliber says:

    The collision head on issue, Provincial human rights act, charter of rights and freedoms and pot smokers. Why they have to smoke the weed? why can’t they use just the plants oil instead of the weed?

    Assuming home renovators getting pot smokers on their homes, what they should do in order to prevent the renovators getting stoned and avoid the skunk smell?

    Where is the guide lines for these issues?

    What will be the implications of homes owners ask those smoking pot on their properties to leave and only came back if smell and impairment isn’t detected? What will be the health and safety hazards, in case of roof tops renovations? Also working with any kind of machines, for renovation needs? The feeds and Provincial government may only look at the way to cash in, but when comes to the real issues to deal with, no one is there.

    Wynne Boskop having 12% approval rating, is like a mortal wound to the Libertards, at the Provincial level and may soon be at the Feeds to.
    It looks like a house of crazy people running the Country.

    Should be at 20% political approval automatically out, resign in shame. Or elections act should change the system, voting those unable to do the right thing out, by collecting vote in open centers voting stations, after half time, 2 years term or less depending the situation, by public demanding, either Provincial or Federal. when any source of abuse of power is detected. That may make the politicians serve the people instead of their gurus.