Over the past six months, the number of patients approving and using medical cannabis has increased dramatically. Unfortunately, this also means that the concerns raised about Medical cannabis in the workplace and employee rights increasing at the same speed. While it would be nice to say you have rights and nothing to worry about, we can’t. You have rights, but what we see is that employers haven’t updated their policies with the times. As a result, you need to be well informed and prepared to work with and around your employer.
The good news is that one patient from Queensland, Mitchell Rice, hasn’t let his employer’s actions bring him down. With the help of Chamberlains Law Firm, he took the Queensland Rail to Federal Court.
In the event of a win, this situation will affect the rights of medical cannabis employees. It is also likely to affect cannabis laws and drug driving in Australia.
Mitchell Rice is a medical cannabis patient who was employed at Queensland Railways (QR) as a railway worker. Mitch tried to do the right thing by revealing his QR drugs. Initially, QR turned it off at a reduced rate. However, the medical practitioner who prescribed Mitch announced that Mitch’s ability to work would not be affected if he took his medication eight hours before the shift. Despite this evidence, QR Mitch was launched for his use of even prescription medical cannabis.
As a result, Mitch is dealing with QR in an illegal termination case, alleging discrimination as a medical cannabis patient. If Mitch wins, it could significantly affect his employer’s responsibilities and tests related to medical cannabis in Australia.
Mitch held his first hearing on December 14.
Basic information on Mitch’s consumption of medical cannabis
In late 2020, Mitch was diagnosed with anxiety and insomnia due to working extensive shifts for a Queensland train and caring for his ailing mother. Mitch prescribed sleeping pills resulting in adverse side effects. When he was looking for alternative options, he found medicinal cannabis. Medical cannabis provided relief from its symptoms without harmful side effects.
Mitch takes his medication before bed, at least eight hours before his next shift.
QR drug testing process
QR drug testing system is similar to the current system Cannabis and the rules of driving. QR employees have a mouth swab test, and if they come back positive for presence rather than impairment, they are considered unfit for work. Mitch has been upfront about his medical cannabis and has provided evidence from his medical practitioner. However, when the oral swab came back positive, he failed the test.
Legal question posed
The case began in the Federal Circuit and Family Court in Australia. The case is a general protection claim under the Fair Work Act. This is where the employer mistreated the employee—in this case, on discriminatory grounds.
“So what we said in the case is that Mitchell has a medical condition and the medication prescribed for that condition is medical cannabis. Because of his treatment, his employer fired him.”
While Mitch was fired simply for having THC in his system, there was no evidence that Mitch was weak. Mitch’s attorney, Jeremy Kennedy, said, “The main legal question is whether or not Mitchell will be harmed from a health and safety at work point of view. An employer needs to determine whether this vulnerability would put themselves or others at risk in the workplace.”
While QR looks for the presence of what is usually an illegal drug, medical cannabis is not an illegal drug, and its presence does not mean weakness. Jeremy went on to say, “There are many other prescription medications that employees have to advertise. But the question then is whether they are impaired, not whether they have those medications in their system.”
The fact that many potentially harmful prescription drugs are treated differently is inconsistent and discriminatory.
First appearance in court
The case was presented to the judge for the first time on Tuesday, December 14, 2021, and the case was postponed until the middle of next year. The court has ordered both parties to participate in an alternative resolution of the dispute until then.
While QR and Mitch will be working through this together in the meantime, Mitch is still unemployed, and the odds are that he will end up once again in court, where Mitch will need his current legal counsel, attorney and expert witnesses.
The importance of supporting this cause
While this case is specific to medical cannabis use in the workplace and discrimination, it can have significant side effects in terms of medical cannabis and driving if won.
Regarding the impacts on employees and workplace rights, Kennedy said, “Instead of using testing for the presence of THC as an indicator, employers should consider a more objective assessment of vulnerability. But, of course, this will come down to acceptable medical evidence about how long it might be infected. in which a person becomes disabled after using medical cannabis.”
In Mitch’s case, he was taking his medication for up to 10 hours before starting his next shift and wouldn’t have developed weakness.
Kennedy further stated, “There is a study by the Lambert Initiative for Cannabis Therapy where it has been shown that inhalation of cannabis can last for two hours. And the study I’ve also read suggesting that THC levels are not an adequate measure of low.”
If there is a positive result for Mitch, the implication for employees in Australia is that employees can feel safe taking medical cannabis while not jeopardizing their work. The hope is that medical cannabis will be treated like any other prescription drug.
Medical cannabis and driving
The argument that organizations love change engine, which is struggling to change discriminatory medical cannabis and drug-driving laws, making it similar. Most other prescribed medications have a defense when the patient is driving rather than suffering. Laws did not keep pace with the times or science.
If the court upholds that presence is not a good indicator of vulnerability, this could have far-reaching implications for our laws and restrictions on medical cannabis patients more broadly.
How can you support the cause
Mitch’s case was taken over before Chamberlains Law Firm pro bono team (free). However, other aspects of this issue will cost a significant amount of money. When the case goes back to court, Mitch and his legal team will need an attorney and at least one expert witness, who will need to pay.
While Mitch knows nearly 100,000 medical cannabis patients in Australia are behind him in heart and mind, his legal costs are estimated to be around $100,000. In order to pay for his legal team, Mitch created a GoFundMe Page.
Any money up to $100,000 will go towards his legal defense. Any excess money will go to the Cancer Foundation. Mitch chose Cancer Council (Australia) to honor his mother, who recently passed away of cancer.
No matter how small, your support via a Donate to Mitch’s Legal Campaign It will go a long way. If you are unable to donate, we really appreciate sharing this article.