Cannabis and Work
With the Constitutional Court judgment on 18th September 2018 effectively legalizing cannabis, some questions can be asked around Labour Law.
Jan du Toit, a Senior Consultant with SA Labour Guide asks the question, “Does the fact that one will have the right to private consumption of cannabis imply that employers will have to amend their policies and disciplinary codes?”
Cannabis is a psychoactive drug derived from the Cannabis plant. The main psychoactive part of the plant is tetrahydrocannobinol (THC). Cannabis can be used by smoking, vaporizing with a ‘bong’, within food or as an oil extract. Cannabis is a depressant drug, which means it slows down messages travelling between your brain and body.
The physical effects of cannabis is an altered state of consciousness – a general change in perception of time and space, heightened mood (euphoric and sociable), increased sensitivity to taste, sight, smell and hearing, impaired coordination and concentration, decrease in short term memory, decreased motivation, increased pulse and heart rate, dilated and blood shot eyes and at times negative experiences like paranoia and anxiety.
Long-term effects of cannabis use are widely debated but include dependency, damage to heart and lungs, the reproductive system, and adolescent brain development. There is evidence of a link between schizophrenia and cannabis use.
Cannabis oil is used to combat a wide variety of different illnesses such as effects of cancer treatment, pain relief and epilepsy.
Cannabis can be detected in urine for a few days (occasional user) or longer than a month (chronic user). This means that a joint smoked on a Saturday night at a party may be detectable in the urine on a Monday morning – despite the effects of the cannabis having probably worn off.
So will it be permissible for employees to have cannabis in their system when they present for work?
The General Safety Regulation 2A of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, requires that an employer may not allow any person who is or who appears to be under the influence of an intoxicating substance, to be allowed access to the workplace. Neither may an employer allow any person to have intoxicating substances in his or her possession in the workplace.
Jan du Toit suggests that this means that the legislation of private cannabis use is probably not a defence for a positive urine test of cannabis at work.