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Cannabis At Work: What All Employees Need To Know

Written by Marguerite Arnold

If you are a medical patient, your rights are not always clearly defined in most places. Starting with your job.

In the United States, this has been a long-standing argument to end the drug war on cannabis specifically. Why? Widespread drug testing was implemented in the United States during the 1980’s and 1990’s as a way to threaten people not to use illegal drugs. Cannabis, stays present in the body for a long time.

A very casual user can smoke a joint over a weekend and expect to be ‘clean’ within a week or so. Medical users, of course, face an entirely different problem. Because they are ingesting cannabis on a regular basis, hence it remains in the system.

If the person in question is on disability and doesn’t work, problem solved. However if a person is not incapacitated by their disability, their use of cannabis – even if “legally prescribed” at this point under a state program – effectively bars them from most American workplaces to this day. While federal and state drug testing programs are on their way out (for veterans in particular), a lot of people remain directly affected by this. Starting with those who are employed in both government and private sector jobs.

Use cannabis medically in the United States, in other words, you are not protected at work. You can be automatically and summarily fired just for testing positive for cannabis. And to date, this has not been overturned. The reason, of course, apart from the federal scheduling of cannabis, is that the ADA – the Americans with Disabilities Act – the strongest federal law protecting the rights of people with disabilities – excludes such individuals from the protections of the act if they use cannabis specifically.

And while this may start to change under pressure from state law in California, which is the strongest in the country when it comes to disability rights, don’t expect it to happen anytime soon. In fact, what may well be on the table for patients in California in particular, is another round of torturous class action lawsuits under the ADA.

Rights of Patients In Other Places

Being a cannabis patient and a regular pay check earner is not quite as difficult in other places, but it is still a significant issue. Outside the United States, particularly where cannabis has now become recognized as having medicinal value, these issues are not as pressing, but they are still problematic. How people who drive for a living, for example, or even drive at all, will be affected when they sign up for a cannabis regime to treat chronic pain, has not been dealt with in any country except on a case-by-case basis. And such individuals are also regularly tested for drug use.

Professional athletes globally also face these problems, far outside of the United States. The NFL might be “renegotiating” a labor contract in 2020 that well may be the first major recognition of cannabis as a legitimate medicine, and further, one that can be used by individuals, particularly during “off-work” times. Including to treat pain and other chronic conditions. Until that time, the Olympic Committee, for example, is unlikely to revise its policies. Nor are any other major sporting organizations. Cannabis use scandals have already been issues in international soccer, for example.

For that reason, it is also very likely that 2020 will be the first year that this issue is dealt with seriously. Until then, medical users in all countries will have to deal with various means of deception if they want to keep their jobs.

The Great Contradiction

Working while “high” is a discussion that has been going on for quite some time. The first debates about the use of drugs in academia dating from immediately after the end of WWII were often focussed specifically on this issue – along with overall public health and productivity discussions.

While it was subsequently covered up until very recently, when it then became a best-selling book, the Nazi army fuelled their invasion of Russia on amphetamines and chocolate. In a post-war world, where Europe lay in ruins, discussions about how to literally “fuel” such rebuilding efforts were frequently on the table.

With cannabis now at the dawn of being recognized as a metabolic regulator – starting with those who are sick or focussed on keeping their bodies in peak physical condition – this is again on the table. Productive national workforces, including those not embroiled in a heroin and opioid addiction gripping most of the west right now, are absolutely of first concern globally.

Even more stunningly, the medical evidence that is now at the forefront of science may well be about to prove that the best way to be a productive “worker” is to first imbibe a regular if not multiple daily dose of a cannabinoid of some kind. Move over Aldus Huxley.

Artists, IT geeks, writers and professional athletes who have long discussed the use of particularly cannabis, ostensibly for both medical and professional reasons, may for that reason, be on the cutting edge of how cannabis use is treated at work. Regardless, it is a discussion that has been repeatedly revisited for at least a half a century. These days, it is also absolutely, the front line of a brave new world.

[Image credit- Pixabay]

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About the author

Marguerite Arnold