The lack of an accurate impairment test and the potentially unlawful discrimination against medicinal cannabis patients emerged as the two major themes during Victoria’s inquiry into workplace drug testing.

The two-day inquiry heard from a range of witnesses last week, including unions, police, researchers and industry bodies with a view to informing future debate over potential legislative reform.

A report by the Legislative Council’s Legal and Social Issues Committee, chaired by Legalise Cannabis MP David Ettershank, is expected to be lodged in August.

David Ettershank (Photo: MCIA)

Ettershank said the inquiry provided some “very useful material” that will shape the committee’s findings.

“It gave an opportunity to flesh out a lot of the issues that we had in mind when we first moved the motion to get this inquiry up,” he said. “It was a good discussion and it didn’t break down on party lines. There was a genuine desire to get into the issues.”

The motion to establish the inquiry received cross-party backing last August.

On impairment verses presence of THC, the Lambert Initiative said there remains an absence of a reliable impairment test, an issue that has plagued efforts to reform drug-driving laws.

The research body told employers the best current solution was to combine use of the Druid app – which measures cognitive function – with an oral fluid THC test.

“The use of point-of-collection devices to perform random oral fluid tests for THC at a specified cutoff (e.g. 10mg/ml), while clearly not perfect, can provide an additional layer of security against impairment in employees,” Lambert said. “This could be coupled to the use of rapid smartphone app-based tests of impairment that can be used to build historical data around psychomotor and cognitive performance in employees.”

The organisation said it was “clear that some employers are using unnecessarily harsh approaches”.

Montu also appeared at the inquiry. Government relations manager, Matthew McCrone, speaking on behalf of the company and Australia’s newest cannabis association, Cannabis Council Australia, stressed there must be “fairness and natural justice for medical cannabis patients”. 

“While Montu supports the current legal requirements for workplace strategies to protect employees in safety-critical roles, we are of the view that the current framework is unsatisfactory,” he said. “The scope of substances included in workplace screening, along with the approach of testing for mere presence – rather than impairment – is discriminatory, and needs to be updated.”

He added: “We hear every day from people who are severely impacted by this legislation, such as patients unable to maintain full-time employment as they do not feel able to go without their pain medication, and others who simply live in fear of being randomly tested at work, despite holding non-safety critical roles.”

The state government will have six months to respond to the committee’s recommendations.

Steve has reported for a number of consumer and B2B titles over a journalism career spanning more than three decades. He is a regulator contributor to health journal, The Medical Republic, writing on...

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