A local doctor is urging employers to learn more about the use of medicinal cannabis and how it may affect their employees as its usage becomes more widespread.
Dr Chris Edmond, the Medical Director of occupational health specialists WorkHealth Jersey, said that employers might need to make exemptions to their drug and alcohol use policy as well as potential changes in their employees’ duties.
In a move aimed at helping local sufferers of chronic pain and other conditions who felt they had exhausted all other treatment options, politicians voted in 2018 to allow GPs to prescribe medicinal cannabis in 2018. Legislation then came into force the following year.
With three separate GP-led clinics offering cannabis on prescription having launched in the island over the past six months – one of which, TMCC Jersey, reported an "incredible response" from patients in its first month of operation – and local companies launching in the areas of cannabis cultivation, Dr Edmond says he predicts a rise in the number of patients using the drug to treat their ailments.
While some jurisdictions have extended a specific protection to employees dismissed or adversely treated due to their use of medicinal cannabis, Dr Edmond says there may already be some protection under Jersey’s discrimination legislation.
Pictured: Dr Edmond says medicinal cannabis users may have some protection under Jersey's Discrimination Law.
“Medicinal cannabis is typically used to treat medical conditions that can be considered a disability under our Discrimination Law,” he said.
With this in mind, Dr Edmond says business owners should therefore review their policies around drug and alcohol use, as well as impairment at work, taking into consideration two “specific competing obligations”.
“Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate employees with a disability, but they must also take reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of their staff and workplace,” he explained.
“Possible side effects of cannabis use should be taken into consideration when identifying safety in the workplace - using cannabis or any cannabis product can impair your concentration, your ability to think and make decisions, and your reaction time and coordination. This can affect your motor skills, including your ability to drive.
"It can also increase anxiety and cause panic attacks, and in some cases cause paranoia and hallucinations. In safety-critical roles it is likely to be appropriate to prohibit use either at work or completely.”
Dr Edmond also suggested that employers should ensure individuals can substantiate a prescription if an employee raises the fact they have been prescribed medicinal cannabis.
Pictured: Employers should ensure individuals can substantiate a prescription if an employee raises the fact they have been prescribed medicinal cannabis.
“A discussion about when and on what basis the individual will be taking the prescribed product during work hours will be required, with appropriate deliberation on whether it may pose a risk in the workplace. Care must be taken not to expose other employees to second-hand vapours,” he said.
“The usual rules should be applied when a situation involving the use of medicinal cannabis arises. Proper investigation and verification will be necessary if an employee fails a drug test and attributes it to the use of medicinal cannabis.”
Dr Edmond said exceptions to the drug and alcohol use policies may be appropriate as “a reasonable adjustment” for an employee whose prescription of medicinal cannabis relates to a condition which constitutes a disability.
“Employers are required to attempt to find reasonable adjustments for employees with a disability, including those with a prescription for medicinal cannabis,” he added.
“Employers may want to consider additional or alternative accommodations such as altering the employee’s duties dependent on the situation.”
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