Editorial: Weed worries

Panic about workplace cannabis is half baked.
Patrick Flannery
July 10, 2018
By
Weed, weed, weed in the workplace. Boy, it’s all you hear about these days. The Senate passed the law legalizing cannabis in Canada this summer, but already there’s been a stampede of experts on health, safety and human resources to podiums across the country to tell any industry group that will sit still all about it.
It’s been a steady diet of webinars, seminars and even whole-day events. No trade show schedule is complete without at least one speaker talking weed. People like me who organize industry events love the topic because we know more people will sit in if they think they might get a few giggles out of this previously taboo subject. Tips for organizers: schedule the talk for 4:20 p.m. and pass out Cheetos.

Some people won’t like this take but I must say I don’t understand what there is to talk about. Alcohol has been legal for a while now. So have prescription medicines that impair your ability to drive or operate machinery. Somehow, business owners have dealt with all that. You aren’t allowed to show up to work drunk, so I see no reason why showing up stoned would be any different. The smell and the red eyes and the sudden affinity for Bob Marley music are dead giveaways. If you have a prescription, well, you wouldn’t be able to drive if you were on prescribed Oxycontin so you still can’t drive if you are on prescribed reefer. Employers and employees need to work out what else they can do, or talk about what the options are if their medical condition and medication make it impossible for them to do the only job available. These aren’t new problems for anyone.

The only intersection I can see with a potential concern is that a human rights authority might step if in you try to remove a person from their job tasks when they are under the influence of prescribed cannabis. If the weed is prescribed, that means the person is sick or injured. If they are disabled by illness or injury, they must be accommodated in the workplace. That means they can’t be fired or otherwise dismissed just because they are showing up under the influence. But every human resources person I have spoken to has confirmed that you don’t have to let people drive or operate machinery under the influence even if the drug is prescribed. As long as you offer them something else to do, you can’t be slapped with a constructive dismissal suit (and those are hard to prove anyway). Of course, you may be obliged to have a stoned person working in your business. I have news for you: you probably already do.

I suppose it is all part and parcel of the general hysteria over marijuana that has been rampant around the world for the last century or so. I know a lot of people are very worried about the bad side effects, and there are some to be sure. But I’ve been personally convinced by the science showing weed to be no worse for you – and probably quite a bit better – than alcohol and tobacco. Which makes it all the stranger that I elect to drink and smoke cigarettes rather than smoke up...but I digress. The point is, I think maybe the issue is getting more attention than it deserves both in public policy and the workplace. There’s nothing new here in terms of employee relations and no reason why legalization would make it any more permissible for your employees to show up under the influence.

If only we could all find some way to relax.

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