As you can imagine, we get asked all sorts of questions about drugs and alcohol. Some are easy to answer, others, like this one, are not so straight-forward.
One of our clients got in touch with us the other week because an employee of theirs declared using a cannabis product, as recommended by his doctor. Whilst our client has a drug and alcohol program and a clear process for handling illicit drugs, including cannabis, this case of medicinal use posed a whole other set of questions.
First and foremost was the product itself. Cannabis is familiar to most of us as marijuana (or recreational cannabis) but as a medical treatment, cannabis can come in different forms such as spray, oil and from a wide variety of sources, some legal, others not so.
After some careful checking by our pharmacologist, we established that the product being used by this worker was not approved for use in Australia as either a prescription medicine or as an experimental medicine. It was also not being prescribed as a ‘special access scheme’ product approved by the Department of Health. In fact, importing it into Australia without approval and a doctor’s prescription was illegal.
Importantly from a safety perspective, we made it clear to our client that medicinal cannabis products (just like recreational cannabis) can be impairing at work. That’s why it is recommended that any workers taking medicinal cannabis do not drive or operate heavy machinery.
Finally, as this client has a drug and alcohol testing program in place, if this worker were to be tested, it is possible they would record a “positive for THC” drug test result.
With this knowledge, our client was able to engage in a meaningful and informed discussion with their worker and proactively manage this ever-increasingly complex issue.
If you are interested in knowing more about medicinal cannabis, you may want to join our upcoming webinar. It is being delivered by Associate Professor David Allen on Wednesday 28th October from 1030am AESDT and you can register here.