12% of the Australian population acknowledged cannabis use in 2019. Particularly noteworthy is the rise in cannabis consumption among the working demographic, reaching 14% in 2019, on an upward trajectory.
Research conducted between 2010 and 2019 indicates a substantial 17.4% increase in cannabis use among workers. Cannabis use is more likely seen in the arts and recreation industry. However, higher than average usage is also evident in the information and media, accommodation and food services, wholesale trade and construction industries.
The legal landscape adds complexity to the narrative. Although cannabis remains predominantly illegal in Australia, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) broke convention in 2020 by decriminalising personal recreational use. Furthermore, medicinal cannabis has been legally available across the country since 2016, leading to a consistent rise in prescriptions.
Public opinion of cannabis use is also softening. Over the past decade, approval for cannabis use doubled from 8% to 20%, with support for legalisation jumping from a quarter to 41%.
The implications for workplaces are substantial. On one hand, cannabis use is associated with impaired cognitive and physical functions, posing potential safety risks in the workplace and incurring an estimated annual cost of $560 million in absenteeism.
Conversely, research suggests that medical cannabis could offer therapeutic benefits, particularly in addressing chronic pain and anxiety.
So where does that leave the workplace?
It is complex and complicated. The shifting dynamics of cannabis usage necessitate a more nuanced approach within workplaces. Striking a balance between acknowledging potential risks and recognising therapeutic applications is paramount in adapting policies to this evolving landscape. Even determining whether a claim of medicinal cannabis use complies with government regulations or just a cover for recreational use is problematic. DASA has considerable expertise in the area of medicinal cannabis and can help you navigate the complexities through:
Ensuring your Drug and Alcohol Policy adequately addresses cannabis.
Providing training for workers and managers, including clarifying what constitutes legal and illegal cannabis use.
Interpreting drug test and laboratory test reports, on a case by case basis.
If you would like to know more about managing cannabis in your workplace or how DASA can help, call 1300 230 231 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
DASA (Drug and Alcohol Solutions Australia) is proud to be leading the way in workplace drug and alcohol testing services throughout Australia. Whether your need is for workplace drug and workplace alcohol testing, advice on drug and alcohol policy or ideas on how to communicate your workplace expectations, policies and procedures to your staff, DASA can help. We have the experience, technical expertise and people to lead you to the right solution.
Source: NCETA Alcohol and Other Drug Use: A Focus on Employed Australians Part2: Implications for Workplace, June 2023