Medicinal Cannabis and the Workplace

Earlier this year, the Australian parliament passed new laws allowing medicinal cannabis to be prescribed to people with painful and chronic illness where existing treatments weren’t successful in reducing their pain. It should be noted that it will be sometime before it is made available to the general public as it is subject to successful trials and testing.

But does that mean your employees can be high at work and put safety at risk? Simply, the answer is simply NO.

Let’s clarify a few things:

  • If an employee is taking medicinal cannabis legally, they will be prescribed it by their doctor. They will have a script for the medication and are encouraged to request a letter from their doctor outlining the symptoms they are likely to experience to show their manager. This will assist the workplace in re-assigning daily tasks (if required) to reduce the safety risk to not only the employee taking the medication but those around them.
  • Medicinal cannabis is very different to recreational cannabis. Medicinal cannabis will be altered to reduce the amount of THC in the drug, this is the psychoactive component that is associated with the feeling of ‘getting high’.
  • Medicinal cannabis will be supplied in either a vapour form, as an oil or as a tablet that allows it to be absorbed into the system for maximum relief. Pharmacists will not be handing out cannabis leaf or buds for your employees to smoke in a joint or bong.
  • Medicinal cannabis is made available by authorised manufacturers only. Growing cannabis in your back yard is still illegal and local authorities will take action if they find cannabis on your property or in your possession.

Medicinal cannabis is just like any other prescribed drug, it’s legal and can cause side effects that could impact safety in the workplace. Employees should be encouraged to inform their manager if they are taking a drug that has side effects that could impact safety such as fatigue, confusion or lack of concentration.

What Can Workplaces Do?

What can workplaces do to protect their employees who may be legitimately prescribed medicinal cannabis by their doctor?

Have a comprehensive policy and educate your employees that they need to advise their supervisor of the likely symptoms they could experience.

It is recommended workplaces create an environment where employees are supported if they disclose this information and alternative work arrangements are made to accommodate the short term impairment. Further consultation with the employee may need to be had if the use of medication is likely to be longer term and it’s unlikely the employee will be able to resume their normal duties.

For more information see:


Natasha Jager

Natasha Jager

National Manager, Workplace Services at Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Health and wellbeing


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Comments (1)

John Eustace

John Eustace , Principal / Communications and Media Strategist at Bells and Whistles Marketing Pty Ltd

Munchies breaks? ;-0