Banning medicinal marijuana is “un-Canadian,” says lawyer

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HR managers may be concerned about the potential safety hazards that come with medicinal marijuana but one lawyer says it’s simply “un-Canadian” to issue a complete ban on prescribed cannabis.

“To prevent an employee from consuming prescribed medicine outside of the workplace is absolutely in my view, unlawful discrimination under human rights legislation,” said Kirk Tousaw, with Tousaw Law Corporation.

“This is the kind of stigmatization that we encounter around medicinal cannabis because of its history as a prohibitive substance and because of the deep discrimination and hysterical fear-mongering that comes from people who don’t understand either the effects of cannabis or don’t understand how it can be used as medication,” he continued.

Health Canada currently estimates that the number of lawful medicinal marijuana consumers sits between 50,000 and 70,000 Canadians but that number is expected to jump to 400,000 by 2024.

Tousaw pointed out that as more and more Canadians turn to medicinal marijuana, employers will have to make amendments to company policies in order to offer reasonable accommodation.

“With that kind of growth I think you’ll see spill-over into different areas of law, such as employment law, and whether or not employer can discriminate against medical marijuana users,” Tousaw said.

And Tousaw didn’t stop there – the Vancouver based advocate suggested employers who ignore the changing situation should grow up.

“There’s a moral imperative you shouldn’t discriminate against your employees who are using medicine to treat serious medical conditions under the support and prescription of their physician, that’s un-Canadian, it’s bad form and bad citizenship and likely unlawful,” he said.

“We’re going to have to start grappling with this in an adult way. Simply having the ‘hear no evil see no evil’ mentality and taking no-tolerance policies that are not based on facts isn’t going to cut it.”

HR managers looking to find out more about the legal implications surrounding medicinal marijuana in the workplace can attend the HRM Masterclass in Vancouver, on June 16. Click here to find out more. 

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  • Larry Dawson on 2015-04-28 11:22:21 AM

    This will be interesting. Medical marijuana still causes impairment. Safety sensitive industries can discharge any workers who are found to be impaired by alcohol or drugs, or refuse to hire. Will the courts and arbitrators trump individual rights over safety? I think not.

  • Charlie on 2015-04-30 1:14:09 PM

    Larry, all painkillers cause impairment, until the person is on a steady dose for a certain time. After that, they no longer get impaired, it just kills the pain. A prescription from a Dr, that causes any impairment, at any dose, always has a warning label on the package....'do not drive heavy machinery" or "can cause drowsiness". Is everyone whom is prescribed any medication ineligible to work or drive? No. So, why single out Cannabis?

  • Larry Dawson on 2015-05-04 5:28:06 PM

    "After that they no longer get impaired it just kills the pain"?? Where are you getting your medical information?? If you are using painkillers - or marijuana - long term, it means you are addicted, and you are still getting high and are still impaired.If it's in your bloodstream you are impaired. No insurance company will accept liability for workers who have impairing substances in their blood. None. And employers will not accept that liability. So whether it's oxy or pot - impaired means no job.

  • doug t on 2015-05-16 6:04:20 PM

    And what about non-prescription medicines such as graval and cough-syrup which also cause drowzyness and imparement? Why are they given a blind eye Larry? Sleep deprivation will cause you to act inibriated, yet no employer will look their workers in the face and say, "you are too impared to work." Do you know what addiction is? Because long term use does not equal addiction, dependance equals addiction. 1 beer does not in most cases equate to imparment. Why is that drug different? By your logic the alcohol that enters my system through my mouthwash every morning is leaving me too impared to work. It is beyond all aspects of reality that i am not able to go home after work and medicate with a medicine my doctor perscribed, because my job requires me to stay sober while at work. Should people work high? Absolutely not. Should people be forced to decide between medicine that allows them to forgoe destroying their livers with pain pills, or being able to work? Absolutely not.

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