Cannabis in the workplace. With the Constitutional Court ruling last week that the cultivation of cannabis and the private/personal use thereof is legalised, what are the implications of this from an employment perspective?
Does it imply that the use of dagga within the workplace is now likewise legalised?
Analogies are being drawn between the legalisation of cannabis and the use of alcohol. I am not sure whether this comparison is really useful or not since the identification of signs of intoxication and the effects of the use of these substances varies significantly as does the means by which one tests for cannabis and for alcohol.
As an example a breathalyser or blood test for alcohol are pretty valid tests for the presence of alcohol on the breath or blood of an employee. However, urine tests
to test for cannabis would pick up some metabolic substance in the urine of an employee which could still be present long after the mind-altering effects had ceased to prevail.
The comparison is probably only really useful to the extent to which one identifies that both substances are legalised and that the extensive use of both create huge debilitating and mind-altering effects in the users.
Cannabis in the Workplace
Work contexts vary widely from administrative establishments to manufacturing, engineering and mining contexts where employees work with complex and sometimes heavy machinery which, when incorrectly operated, could create opportunities for massive personal injury. The extent and impact of legislation across these different contexts is also different. There is not much legislation and regulation of the administrative working environment whereas in mines, power stations and manufacturing establishments there is very specific legislation such as the Occupational Health and
Safety Act and the Mines Act which make specific reference to the prohibition of the use of any intoxicating substance.
It is in the latter respect which I would comment and state that cannabis in the workplace/dagga/marijuana cannot be used within the workplace at all given that the workplace would not constitute a private or personal space. With the intoxicating effects of cannabis, one would certainly not be able to permit any employee in an intoxicated state to continue to work in that condition either. The management and treatment of an employee who should arrive at work in an intoxicated state must be decisive, consistent and fair. In my view, the current argument about the implications of the Constitutional Court judgement on cannabis on 17 September 2018 have less to do with the legalisation of the substance and more to do with the effects of the substance on the human body and mind and the fact that employees are expressly prohibited from coming on to an employer’s premises being under the influence of any intoxicating substance.
For employers, dealing with these kinds of matters (cannabis in the workplace) is becoming both tricky and yet important. A key action required to be taken by employers is to make sure that very specific policies are developed and communicated to employees around the management of users of dagga, whether users should
be required to declare their use of dagga to employers and the manner in which dagga use in employees will be identified tested and how any offences relating to use of dagga will be handled by the employer. The employer should also be specific in their disciplinary codes on how offences relating to dagga use and intoxication are regarded in terms of severity by the employer and possible consequences for any transgressing employee.
Andrew Butters is a motivational speaker specialising in employee engagement issues.