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Will Medical Cannabis Show Up on a Drug Test?

TLDR: yes, medical cannabis will still show up on a drug test, and many companies have their own policies in place around impairment that sit outside of what you're prescribed by a doctor. It's important you know the facts about drug testing, to understand if medical cannabis is suitable for your career and lifestyle.

In Australia, the issue of workplace drug testing, particularly concerning THC (Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive component in cannabis, is a complex and evolving matter. As medicinal cannabis becomes more prevalent, the intersection between workplace safety, drug testing, and employee rights is increasingly scrutinized.

Current Landscape of Workplace Drug Testing in Australia

Workplace drug testing is a strategy used across various industries in Australia to manage risks and ensure compliance with health and safety standards. It is particularly prevalent in safety-sensitive industries like aviation, transportation, construction, and military, where impairment could have severe consequences. Employers in these sectors are legally mandated to conduct regular drug testing to ensure that employees are fit to perform their duties​​​​​​.

The tests typically detect substances like amphetamines, cocaine, cannabis, benzodiazepines, opioids, and alcohol. While urine tests can detect the use of recreational drugs, saliva tests are more indicative of current intoxication levels. However, it's important to note that these tests are not infallible. False positives can occur, and workplaces are advised to have mechanisms in place for employees to challenge incorrect results​​.

The Issue with THC and Workplace Testing

The challenge with THC testing lies in its detection window. Unlike alcohol, which metabolizes relatively quickly, THC can remain detectable in saliva tests up to 30 hours post-consumption and nearly a month in urine tests. This long detection window means that a positive test for THC does not necessarily indicate current impairment or intoxication​​.

Victoria's Inquiry

Recognizing these complexities, the Victorian parliament is currently holding an inquiry into the laws governing workplace drug testing. This inquiry focuses particularly on whether the current laws discriminate against medicinal cannabis users. It's considering whether testing can be improved to ensure due process and natural justice in workplaces with medicinal cannabis users​​.

Public Safety and THC Restrictions

While discussions around accommodating medicinal cannabis users in workplace drug testing are ongoing, it's crucial to uphold restrictions around THC for specific jobs. In high-risk and safety-critical industries, the presence of THC poses a significant risk. Impairment, even minor, can lead to accidents, injuries, or even fatalities, not just for the employee but also for co-workers and the public. For instance, in roles that involve operating heavy machinery or driving, even a slight impairment can have dire consequences.

The evolving dialogue around medicinal cannabis and workplace drug testing in Australia reflects a growing need to balance employee rights with public safety. As laws and policies continue to adapt, it's vital for both employers and employees to stay informed about these changes. However, for certain safety-critical roles, maintaining stringent THC restrictions remains in the public's best interest to ensure the highest level of safety and responsibility in the workplace.

For more information on Medical Cannabis visit the TGA website.

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