Medicinal cannabis doc says ‘conservative mindset’ needs to change

Two medicinal cannabis patients say they’ve been told they can’t take the legally prescribed medication at work, despite the strain being non-psychoactive.

The two men, who Stuff has agreed not to name, were prescribed medicinal cannabis and both told their employers they would be using it on the job.

Both men say they made it clear to their employers they would only be taking CBD, which is a non-psychoactive type of medicinal cannabis.

Sarah Helm, executive director at the NZ Drug Foundation, confirmed “medicinal cannabis that only contains CBD is not psychoactive”.

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“As with other prescription medicines, it can have a mild sedative effect, but this is generally much more mild than other pharmaceutical drugs that are prescribed for pain,” Helm said.

A spokesperson for drug-checking agency Know Your Stuff said “CBD in its pure state does not cause a high in the same way as THC”, the chemical in cannabis that gives a high.

The spokesperson referred to a study by the University of Sydney that found even high does of CBD has no impact on people’s cognitive abilities.

The first medicinal cannabis user, a farm worker, has various painful ailments, which causes broken sleep.

After initially being told by his doctor that his options were tramadol and codeine, he decided to opt for medicinal cannabis.

CBD oil, a type of medical cannabis, is non-psychoactive.

Unsplash

CBD oil, a type of medical cannabis, is non-psychoactive.

The man wrote a letter to his employer, explaining he had been prescribed medicinal cannabis.

He said his employer responded that he would not be allowed to use his prescription at work, as it was “illegal”.

Lawyers are now involved and, two months on, the issue has not been resolved.

“[My employers] think I just want to get high and smoke weed,” he said. “They didn’t understand that CBD wasn’t psychoactive.”

The other patient works in a meat-processing factory, and was prescribed cannabis for his anxiety and depression.

When he told his employers about it, he was dismissed, and required to pass a drug test in order to return two weeks later.

“I’ve been kept in the dark with no updates for the past two and a half months,” the patient said, who is waiting to see if he can resume his prescription.

“I’m trying new pills which are not working, and the side effects are far worse than medical cannabis.”

Doctor Clare Halford said the “conservative” mindset hasn’t changed, creating problems for patients at work.

Cannabis Clinic/Supplied

Doctor Clare Halford said the “conservative” mindset hasn’t changed, creating problems for patients at work.

Doctor Clare Halford, of the Cannabis Clinic, where both men are patients, said the “conservative” mindset around medicinal cannabis still hasn’t changed, creating problems for patients at work.

“We’re trying to find the line [between] occupational health, cannabis clinicians, patients, while keeping safety are the forefront,” she said.

One medicinal cannabis patient told Stuff who was concerned about taking more addictive drugs like Tramadol.

Myriam Zilles/Unsplash

One medicinal cannabis patient told Stuff who was concerned about taking more addictive drugs like Tramadol.

Halford said medicinal cannabis can treat people suffering from chronic pain conditions, anxiety, depression and the side effects of chemotherapy.

She said some employers “bend over backwards” to learn about medicinal cannabis, but there were others who “see red and fire someone on the spot”.

“We are hoping for a more predictable guideline consensus to be reached so that employees and employers both know where they are in all of this,” Halford said.

A spokesperson for workplace relations minister Michael Wood said this issue was “not on Government’s legislative agenda”.

“It is important for employers to consider that a positive drug test does not necessarily indicate that an employee’s performance was impaired while at work,” the spokesperson said.

Halford said employers need to know people want to be functional, not stoned.

“This is actually like any other prescription, it should be accessible to everyone.”

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