Return of the Smoking Room? Employers Grapple With Medicinal Marijuana Use

We’re long past the days of Mad Men-style cigarettes in the office, but some say a looming spike in the number of Canadians using medical marijuana could force the return of “smoking rooms” to workplaces across the country.

In an era of smoking bans on patios, parks and restaurants, the notion may seem absurd, but those relying on marijuana to ease chronic pain and other conditions may soon be demanding accommodation for their medically prescribed and commercially grown medication.

“We think this is going to be a big issue,” said Kecia Podetz, a partner at Ottawa’s Emond Harnden LLP specializing in employment law. “There is an immediate reaction, because historically we don’t allow employees to smoke marijuana in the workplace. But, once you get past that and think, ‘this is a prescription from a doctor and it must be treated like any other prescription,’ all the usual accommodations come into play.”

Employers have a legal obligation to accommodate their employees when it comes to sickness or disability in the workplace. The obligation is enshrined in the Canadian Human Rights act as well as the Occupational, Health and Safety Act and is known as an employers’ “duty to accommodate” employees with special needs.

The issue has already begun to create buzz. In November, Cpl. Ronald Francis, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer in New Brunswick, was stripped of his uniform after it was discovered he was smoking marijuana on the job. Francis had obtained a prescription for three grams of medical marijuana a day to control symptoms from Post Tramatic Stress Disorder suffered while serving in First Nations communities.

– Read the entire article at Ottawa Citizen.