Canada: Conference Dispels Myths About Cannabis

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Professionals in the medical cannabis field are challenging people to do away with their old ideas around the drug, especially when it comes to the workplace.

Many people hold the belief that if you consume cannabis, you’re going to get high. But that’s not always true. The traditional image of a person smoking a joint is also outdated.

“You don’t have to smoke cannabis, there’s no reason to be smoking joints or vaporizing it,” said Jason Fleming, director of human resources at medical cannabis producer MedReleaf. He presented during Cannabis at Work, a conference held on Tuesday about cannabis and the workforce.

Fleming said cannabis can be consumed through capsules and oils. Different types of cannabis cause different reactions. The cannabis people are most familiar with has tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC, which causes the user to be under the influence.

A lesser-known form of cannabis, on the other hand, has no psychoactive components and has been gaining popularity among patients seeking to do away with pharmaceuticals.

Cannabidiol, known as CBD, is an oil-form of cannabis with extremely low levels of THC. That means when on the oil the user will not experience a ‘high’ sensation.

So when an employee discloses they’re using medical cannabis, the first question should be: “what type of cannabis do you use?”

Jennifer McCurdy, president and CEO of the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce, said a lot of employers might not know that not all cannabis causes impairment.

“I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to medical cannabis,” she said. “A lot of people think that if you’re going to be on medical cannabis then you’re going to be high, where there’s actually different components to cannabis.”

Both THC- and CBD- based cannabis is used for medical purposes. Dr. François Hallé, co-founder and senior medical officer of Clinical Cannabis Consulting Group, said at the conference that the drug has shown promising results for symptom relief of people with epilepsy, Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and other ailments.

Additionally, it has shown to have positive effects for people with mental health illnesses, such as PTSD, depression and anxiety.

Even though employees using medical CBD oil will not be under the influence, the drug is still from the cannabis plant. That means the employer still has to know about if it’s in their drug policy.

If the user is using THC cannabis, it’s important for the employer to know how much is being used and when it needs to be used. It’ll be up to the employer to accommodate the employee if they’re unable to perform their task safely because of their prescription.

In 2013 the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs published a survey on medical cannabis usage. Close to 1,000 users responded from across the world.

Of those surveyed, some of the most common uses of the drug were for chronic pain at 29.2 per cent, mental health at 28.6 per cent and anorexia/weight loss at 10.7 per cent.

Fleming said it’s important for employers to know what cannabis is, the different types and how it should be handled. He said he expects employees to start asking for drug coverage after the recreational drug is legalized.

While companies that offer basic plans may not have to worry, those with more robust coverage plans should be on the lookout.

He said many insurance companies already have cannabis coverage available. It’ll be up to the employers to ask their insurers what kind of coverage they could add to their plans.