Patients need to be aware of the distinction between medical cannabis purchased from licensed producers vs. grey market dispensaries. It’s an important difference that could mean keeping your job or losing it.
Although there is little case law on medical marijuana in the workplace, the few cases that exist have provided some strong messages.
First, let’s look at the legislation. Employers have a duty to accommodate employees with a medical disability and any treatment that follows. This includes medical cannabis. This means that an employer cannot simply fire an employee for using medical marijuana to treat their condition. The employer must find ways to adjust their responsibilities or re-bundle their work to accommodate the cannabis use, especially if there is risk of impairment in a safety sensitive role.
Next, let’s define medical cannabis. In context of the workplace and Human Rights protection for a person with a medical disability, medical cannabis use must be substantiated with a prescription recognized by Health Canada. Following the MMPR, this would mean that the only place a patient can legally purchase their medical cannabis is through one of Canada’s licensed producers.
This was established in the case French vs. Selkin Logging where the BC Human Rights Tribunal upheld the termination of John French because he did not have a prescription for the cannabis he was using to treat cancer.
We have seen a number of grey market dispensaries popping up all across Canada as the country waits on recreational legalization. You can purchase marijuana from these stores and some will even issue you a “prescription” for your condition. But unless your prescription is from a doctor and the appropriate Health Canada medical documents are completed, you don’t have a prescription in the true, legal sense.
Why does this matter? If your employer learns of your marijuana use and you do not have a valid prescription you could get fired. Technically you are using marijuana illegally and you will not have the Human Rights protection that is provided to patients with a valid prescription.
For people who are new to the cannabis retail market they may not be aware of these distinctions. The grey area that exists in the Canadian cannabis market today only makes it more confusing. Medical cannabis patients should take time to understand the risks of participating in the grey market.