Medicinal cannabis patients and their families have been urged to tell a parliamentary inquiry in Victoria of their experience of workplace drug testing as campaigners seek to shine a light on the unfairness of current policies.
Employers have also been encouraged to submit their views, along with other stakeholders including Drive Change, industry associations and unions.
Submissions must be lodged by December 8.
The call for patients to share their stories follows a successful motion introduced by Legalise Cannabis Victoria (LCV) in August to hold an inquiry into company drug testing practices.
The motion received unanimous cross-party backing as MPs in the Legislative Council recognised the need to explore the issue and examine the treatment of medicinal cannabis patients.
The United in Compassion Symposium recently heard stories of employees being dismissed for testing positive for medicinal cannabis or compelled to stop taking their medication to safeguard their job.
Although the date for the inquiry has yet to be confirmed, the Legal and Social Issues Committee must report on its findings by no later than June 30, 2024.
In a note to members, LCV reiterated its view that legitimate medicinal cannabis patients are being “treated as criminals when subject to workplace drug testing”.
“It is unfair, it is discriminatory, and it is costing people their jobs and their livelihoods,” the party told supporters. “It does not happen with other prescription medications.
“With your submission, we will see steps taken to change workplace drug testing practices so that this lawful prescription medication is not a bar to gainful employment.
“When a medicinal cannabis patient is not impaired by their medication, the medication they are prescribed by a doctor should not be a barrier to work.”
The inquiry will explore a range of issues including the legislative and regulatory framework for workplace drug testing, the treatment of prescription medicinal cannabis compared to other prescription medications, and whether workplace “due process and natural justice” could be improved for medicinal cannabis patients while ensuring safety is maintained in the workplace.
It will also examine whether workplace drug testing laws and procedures are discriminatory.
LCV MP Rachel Payne said during the debate in August: “Patients do not choose to have a medical condition, and they do not choose which medicine is best for treating their symptoms.
“Lawfully prescribed medicinal cannabis patients are not behaving irresponsibly or trying to get away with anything. But they are testing positive in their workplace drug tests and they are being punished as if they were using an illicit drug. That is simply wrong.”
Submissions should be lodged through the inquiry website.