Thinking about talking to your boss about medical cannabis in the workplace? Quite the daunting task. Fortunately, Alison McMahon from Cannabis at Work was kind enough to chat with me about how these workplace changes can come about if we take the time to start the conversation.
There are a number of reasons why you might approach your employer about your current use or consideration of medical cannabis. The first and most obvious is that you hold a safety sensitive position at work and are acting on your duty to report a potential hazard. Another reason you may come forward is if you are currently, or are considering, consuming cannabis on a frequent basis for medical reasons. If you genuinely have a medical disability that cannabis treats, the employer has a duty to accommodate you.
If you are going to speak to your employer, Alison offers these 8 tips:
1. Know your rights and responsibilities.
You have a responsibility to participate in an employer’s request for medical information so they can plan appropriately. Employers may request information about your prognosis for recovery, your fitness to return to work (if you’ve been off), your fitness to perform specific components of the job and any other work restrictions. You are required to cooperate with reasonable requests from the employer. Although the employer is entitled to know your prognosis, they are not entitled to your diagnosis.
2. Have your documentation in order.
You should have your medical documentation in order and be prepared to show that you have a physician’s prescription for medical cannabis. Employers are not required to accommodate you if you don’t have a valid prescription and are getting your cannabis from an illegal or “grey market” supplier.
3. Be as Forthcoming as Possible.
Beyond your responsibilities to participate in the accommodation process, you should decide how forthcoming you are willing to be. I would suggest that the more facts you are willing to share about your situation, the more the employer will understand. This will likely make them more comfortable and reduce the number of assumptions they make about your situation. However, this decision is up to you.
4. Confirm Confidentiality.
Only those people who “need to know” about your medical cannabis use in the workplace should know. Employee medical information should always be held in confidence. Discuss who will be privy to this information in the company and your preferences in regards to confidentiality.
5. Be Proactive and Helpful.
If you have ideas about how the employer could accommodate you, offer these upfront. Try to be proactive and work with the employer to find a solution. Remember that the accommodation doesn’t have to be perfect, meaning you may not be thrilled with the options. But this doesn’t mean you can simply reject them. In fact, doing this would paint you in a bad light. You should accept reasonable accommodations.
6. Be Prepared For Any Response.
Medical cannabis is a relatively new trend and many people aren’t educated on the topic. There is still a strong stigma and it could be present in your workplace. You may find that people are surprised but also uncomfortable. Don’t take this personally and allow people time to adjust.
7. Be Professional.
Approach the meeting with the employer in a professional manner. This will give your credibility. If your co-workers do know (or find out), maintain a professional personality. If they joke about your cannabis use, keep a neutral attitude… don’t get mad, but don’t participate in the joking. If you ignore it, it will likely go away.
8. Be Persistent.
Changing minds about medical cannabis is not going to be easy. Keep moving forward with a positive attitude. You can’t control other people but you can control your own approach.
If you approach your employer with these tips in mind it will help to make the process more manageable for both parties. Let us know if your workplace has ever brought up the topic of medical cannabis at work, in the comments below!
Disclosure: The information shared in this post is a personal experience and not to be considered medical or legal advice. Please consult with a health practitioner and seek legal counsel on the cannabis laws in your area.