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The Importance Of Self-Determination

May 11, 2021

Self-determination is a person’s ability to make choices and manage their own life.  With that said, when it comes to an employee’s choice of the right form of cannabis to treat their mental health related issues, an employer may curtail that presumed freedom of choice. The result can lead to a dispute, which, similarly, may cause the parties to interact in a forum that has varying levels of self-determination as to how to resolve their disagreement.

A person’s choice of pharmacotherapies for their mental health and pain management is a form of self-determination. This choice is best informed through education, which can include contrasting the utility of medicinal cannabis as a method to assist the treatment of mental health and pain management with other methods such as prescription drugs, or other substances that can be abused such as alcohol and illicit drugs. There has been an increasing trend since the mid-2010s of individuals who need assistance with managing their pain, anxiety and depression switching away from opioids, benzodiazepines, antidepressants, prescription drugs and alcohol and substituting these options with physician authorized medicinal cannabis.[1]

The provision of education around how cannabis is used or consumed for disability related purposes can be a proactive solution in reducing future conflict related to accommodations in the workplace. Sometimes conflict may arise when an employee might be reluctant or unable to recognize and disclose they have a disability that needs to be accommodated. As workplaces have a duty to accommodate persons with disabilities (both physical and invisible), self-determination by the employee and education for both the employee and the employer is crucial to developing an understanding about the safety and utility of medicinal cannabis.  Conflicts that can arise in the workplace could be due to lack of an updated policy related to cannabis use, a void in education on how cannabis can be used, and employers limiting self-determination by the employee of their choice of cannabis due to unfamiliarity.  

Mediation is often turned to after a dispute arises and can provide a safe and transparent forum to help employees and employers clarify misunderstandings.  As a forum where decisions about how to resolve their dispute can be made by the participants, mediation is distinct from the outcome that can occur during litigation where a result is imposed upon the disputants by a third-party.

While self-determination is a perceived right by an employee to choose treatment of their health care needs, such decisions may unintentionally cause tension with workplace management.  Mediation can provide a useful forum to resolve any workplace related conflicts regarding accommodation for medicinal cannabis use. As the parties to a mediation will usually display an inclination to gain perspective from each other, employees and employers can benefit from exchanging information about the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis to manage pain and treat mental health issues. In so doing, the employee and employer will mutually benefit as they develop a common understanding that will lead to an improvement in their working relationship.  

[1]See Lucas, P., Reiman, A., Earleywine, M., et. al., Cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs: a dispensary-based survey of substitution effect in Canadian medical cannabis patients, Addict Res Theory. 2013; 21(5) 435-432and, Lucas, P., Walsh, Z., Crosby, K., Substituting cannabis for prescription drugs, alcohol and other substances among medicinal cannabis patients: the impact of contextual factors, Drug Alcohol Rev., 2016; 35(3):326-333

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