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How to Keep Your Job After Failing the Cannabis Drug Test in the UK

21 September 2023

An employee packing her personal belongings from the company.

Key Points

  • Cannabis use is legal for medical purposes but remains illegal for recreational activities in the UK. Understanding how these laws may affect your job and the employer’s ability to impose drug testing is important.
  • Employers often have varying policies concerning drug screening, which may encompass the types of substances checked for and the permissible levels of drug presence. Knowing the specifics of your test can help you understand your options moving forward.
  • In the UK, medical cannabis usage is lawful when prescribed by a specialist doctor for specific health conditions. To this end, if you’ve been utilising medical cannabis, possessing a valid prescription can prove helpful in conversations with your employer.
  • Openly discussing your situation with your employer, including seeking out any assistance they may offer for addressing drug use, can showcase your dedication to job retention and personal improvement.
  • Should all other avenues prove unsuccessful, the prospect of seeking alternative employment could be worth exploring. If you remain uncertain about your legal rights as a medical cannabis user, seeking counsel from an attorney may be advisable.

Introduction

The growing acceptance of medical cannabis as a legitimate treatment for various conditions has offered relief to many individuals. However, its use can lead to complications in your professional life, particularly if your employer mandates drug testing. Failing such a screening can be a challenging situation for anyone, but it can be particularly distressing for patients who rely on the benefits of the plant for their health conditions.

In the United Kingdom, where medical cannabis was legalised in 2018, it’s crucial to understand how to navigate this delicate issue and protect your employment. To this end, this blog post aims to provide helpful information, strategies, and insights specifically tailored for medical cannabis patients in the UK who find themselves in this difficult situation.

It is important to note that this article serves solely as an informational resource and should not be construed as a substitute for legal counsel. For guidance specifically tailored to your circumstances, it is highly advisable to engage the services of an attorney.

Lyphe: Empowering Medical Cannabis Patients

The logo of Lyphe Clinic.

If you’ve recently failed a drug test for cannabis and are facing potential repercussions at your workplace, there’s no reason for despair. Lyphe is your definitive solution. As the UK’s most prominent and trusted medical cannabis clinic, our sole focus is to empower you in managing your health conditions through authorised cannabis treatments.

Through a variety of consultation options, Lyphe’s expert and qualified team is available to help guide you through the process of accessing medical cannabis prescriptions, which are legal in the UK for specific health conditions. Essentially, working with Lyphe gives you not just the chance to better manage your well-being but also to furnish your employer with a legitimate reason for any positive drug tests you may have incurred.

So make the informed choice. Contact our experts today and discover how we can adeptly guide you through the intricacies of medical cannabis treatment in the UK. Your well-being is our priority, and we are committed to ensuring you receive the best care possible.

Understanding the Legal Landscape of Medical Cannabis in the UK

Understanding the complexities of drug testing policies and employment laws in the UK is pivotal, especially in light of evolving regulations surrounding medical cannabis. While it has been given the green light for specific conditions – such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain – under the guidance of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), workplace policies may still be in a state of flux.

The Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service (ACAS) offers indispensable guidance on drug testing within the workplace, urging employers to establish clear and well-defined drug and alcohol policies. However, it’s important to note that employment laws concerning medical cannabis use are still somewhat nebulous. Although it has attained prescription-only status for certain ailments, there are no specific legal safeguards in place to protect employment rights related to its use.

Therefore, if you’re an employee who has been prescribed medical cannabis, it’s essential to remain vigilant, familiarise yourself with your workplace’s policies, and be aware of your rights under the existing legal frameworks.

Your Rights as a Medical Cannabis Patient

Being a medical cannabis patient does not negate your rights as an employee. In fact, understanding your rights is imperative in ensuring you are treated fairly and respectfully in the workplace. Here are some tips to help you stay on the right side of the law:

  • Prescription Defense: Having a legitimate prescription is your primary line of defence. Ensure you have all your medical documents and prescriptions ready for verification.
  • Data Protection: Under the Data Protection Act 2018, your test results are confidential and should only be disclosed to those who absolutely need to know (ICO, 2018).
  • Discrimination Claims: The Equality Act 2010 offers protection against discrimination for individuals with disabilities. Conditions like epilepsy, for which medical cannabis may be prescribed, could qualify as disabilities under this act. However, this is a complex area of law and is assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Measures to Take for Passing Workplace Drug Tests

A person reviewing policy paperwork in the office.

Before discussing how to keep a job after failing a drug test in the UK, it’s important to discuss steps you can take to avoid a failed drug screening in the first place. The following are some simple steps:

1. Learn About Your Employer’s Drug Policy

As also highlighted above, it is crucial to familiarise yourself with your employer’s drug policy, which is usually found in the employee handbook. Workplace policies can vary considerably from one employer to the next, and some may adopt a more lenient approach towards medical cannabis users, particularly if such usage is disclosed beforehand.

Importantly, various industries have different regulations and procedures in place. For example, safety-critical industries like transportation, construction, and healthcare typically have stricter drug evaluation policies due to the potential risks involved.

2. Notify Your Employer About Your Medical Cannabis Use

If you are a medical cannabis patient, consider notifying your employer about your legal and prescribed use of cannabis. It’s crucial to handle this conversation with both professionalism and discretion, making certain to furnish suitable supporting documentation from your healthcare provider to substantiate your use.

3. Educate Your Employer About Medical Cannabis

To bridge the gap of understanding, offer educational resources and information to your employer regarding medical cannabis and its benefits. Share reputable sources, studies, and patient testimonials to help them better comprehend the necessity and legality of your use. Additionally, this proactive approach can foster a more informed and empathetic conversation, potentially leading to a resolution that allows you to keep your job.

4. Explore Alternatives to Smoked Cannabis

Discuss alternative forms of cannabis consumption with your healthcare provider. For instance, medical cannabis can be consumed through oils, tinctures, capsules, or edibles, which may not produce detectable metabolites in drug tests for as long as smoked cannabis. 

As opposed to other consumption methods, smoked cannabis is more likely to show up in drug tests. A 2020 review published in Clinical Chemistry suggests that THC can still be detectable in the system 72 hours after use.

Moreover, a 2016 study published in Drug Testing and Analysis found that smoking cannabis resulted in greater levels of both CBD and THC in oral fluid compared to cannabis-infused consumption methods among heavy users.

Disclaimer: As a medical cannabis patient, you can rest assured that you are protected both during and after a drug test. Unlike obtaining cannabis medication from the black market, which may result in unforeseen consequences, having a legitimate medical cannabis prescription ensures that you are legally compliant and supported in your use of cannabis for medical purposes. By accessing medical cannabis through legal channels, such as Lyphe, you can confidently navigate the system and avoid any negative repercussions associated with illegal sourcing methods.

5. Collaborate on Reasonable Accommodations

As also mentioned earlier, under the UK Equality Act 2010, employers are legally obligated to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, including medical cannabis patients. To this end, engage in an open and honest conversation with your employer to explore potential solutions, such as adjusting work schedules, modifying job duties, or transferring to a different position that does not involve safety-critical tasks.

6. Demonstrate Responsible Use

Maintaining responsible use is crucial for medical cannabis patients. Follow your healthcare provider’s dosage recommendations and timing guidelines diligently. It is essential to avoid consuming it during working hours or coming to work under the influence. Simply, by consistently exhibiting professionalism and responsible conduct, you can effectively illustrate that your use of medical cannabis does not adversely impact your job performance.

Initial Measures to Take Following a Failed Drug Test

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Failing a cannabis drug examination in the UK does not mean you will be automatically disqualified from working or receiving benefits. The European Court of Justice has ruled that employees using medical cannabis should be protected from dismissal on the grounds of a positive drug test.

Here are some first steps you can take after failing a cannabis test in the UK:

Action Description Benefit
Seek Legal Advice Consult with an employment law expert for advice tailored to your individual circumstances. Professional guidance, confidentiality
Union Assistance If you are a member of a trade union, they may be able to advise you or even represent you in proceedings. No or low cost, representation in meetings
Open Dialogue Employers often schedule a formal meeting after a failed drug test. Preparing thoroughly can be crucial. Opportunity to explain, possibility of leniency

Other Recommended Courses of Action

Below are some other courses of action you may consider taking in such circumstances:

Action Description Steps to Take
Retaking the Test If there’s a chance that the test result is a false positive or faulty, you can offer to retake it. Consult HR for retesting protocols and then retake the test.
Request for Accommodation If your role isn’t involved in safety-sensitive tasks, you can request a reasonable accommodation due to your medical condition and ongoing treatment. Consult administration for accommodation options and then submit a formal request.
Voluntary Rehabilitation If your employer perceives cannabis use as an issue despite your medical prescription, you might consider enrolling in a drug rehabilitation program as a goodwill gesture. Research rehabilitation programs, discuss with your employer, and enrol if agreed upon.

Consequences of Failing a Cannabis Drug Test

The following outcomes may result from failing a cannabis drug test:

Suspension or Demotion

  • Context-Dependent: Depending on the nature of your job and your past record, some employers may opt for a less severe form of disciplinary action, like a suspension or demotion, instead of immediate termination.
  • Employee Relations: Testing positive for cannabis may strain your professional relationships. Colleagues may be curious or speculative, which can be uncomfortable for you upon your return.
  • Performance Review Impact: There might be a negative mark on your employment record, affecting your future performance reviews and prospects for promotion.

Final Warning

  • Conditions: A final warning usually comes with stringent conditions that you must meet to maintain your employment. This could involve mandatory drug counselling, regular screening, or other measures aimed at preventing future incidents.
  • Time-Sensitive: Final warnings frequently come with a set period within which you are expected to demonstrate improvement or compliance. If you do not meet these requirements within the allotted time, termination could be the subsequent course of action.
  • Documentation: Keep all communications and documents related to the final warning, as you may need these for future reference or in case of legal disputes.

Additional Consequences

  • Termination: In severe cases or for roles where drug use is considered absolutely incompatible (like transportation, healthcare, and public safety), immediate termination is a possibility.
  • Legal Repercussions: Beyond your employment, failing a drug test could have legal consequences, especially if your job involves public safety or you’re in a jurisdiction where cannabis use is still criminalised.
  • Reputation: A positive result can also tarnish your professional reputation, making it difficult to find future employment in the same field or industry.
  • Medical Review: If you are using cannabis for a legitimate health reason, you may be asked to undergo a ‘Fit for Duty’ evaluation to assess your ability to perform your job safely. It’s crucial to have your medical documentation in order for this process.

Conclusion

Being a medical cannabis patient should not automatically cost you your job if you fail a drug test in the UK. By understanding the drug screening policies and laws, notifying your employer about your medical cannabis use, exploring alternative consumption methods, and collaborating on reasonable accommodations, you can increase your chances of keeping your job.

Remember to demonstrate responsible medical cannabis use and seek legal advice if you believe your rights have been violated. With the right approach, education, and communication, it is possible to navigate this situation successfully as a medical cannabis patient in the UK.

If you’re concerned about facing drug tests while utilising medical cannabis, Lyphe Clinic is ideally positioned to offer you expert guidance on appropriate forms and dosages that minimise the chances of a positive test result. Additionally, we can provide you with essential medical documentation. Book a consultation with our healthcare specialists today!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I lose my job in the UK if I fail a drug test?

It is possible to lose your job in the UK if you fail a drug test, but such a scenario is dependent on the industry of employment. Certain sectors, particularly those involving roles critical to safety, might implement a strict no-tolerance policy for substance or alcohol abuse.

How long does cannabis stay in your system and show up on a drug test?

The duration for which cannabis remains detectable in your system can vary depending on factors such as frequency of use and the type of drug test conducted. In general, cannabis can be detected in urine for up to 30 days, in blood for a few days to a week, and in hair for up to 90 days.

What legal rights do I have as an employee if I fail a drug test?

In the UK, the legal rights an employee has if they fail a drug test can vary depending on factors such as industry regulations and employment contracts. It is advisable to consult legal resources to understand specific rights and potential outcomes, as there may be consequences such as disciplinary action or termination of employment.

Is it necessary to disclose my medical cannabis use to my employer before a drug test?

In the UK, there is no legal obligation to disclose medical cannabis use to your employer before a drug test unless specific policies or contractual requirements exist. However, it is important to be aware that failing a drug test without prior disclosure may have consequences, such as disciplinary actions or termination of employment, depending on the employer’s policies.

Can I request a retest if I believe the drug test results are inaccurate?

In the UK, an employee can request a retest if they believe that a drug examination result is inaccurate. However, the right to a retest may depend on the employer’s policies and the testing method used. If the retest results are still positive, there may be legal consequences for withholding information.

References

ACAS (2020). “Drug testing in the workplace”. ACAS.org.uk

Erin L Karschner, Madeleine J Swortwood-Gates, Marilyn A Huestis, Identifying and Quantifying Cannabinoids in Biological Matrices in the Medical and Legal Cannabis Era, Clinical Chemistry, Volume 66, Issue 7, July 2020, Pages 888–914, https://doi.org/10.1093/clinchem/hvaa113

GOV.UK (2021). “Unfair Dismissals”. GOV.UK

Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) (2018). “Data Protection in the Workplace”. Ico.org.uk

NICE (2019). “Cannabis-based medicinal products”. NICE.org.uk

Swortwood, M. J., Newmeyer, M. N., Andersson, M., Abulseoud, O. A., Scheidweiler, K. B., &; Huestis, M. A. (2016). Cannabinoid disposition in oral fluid after controlled smoked, vaporized, and oral cannabis administration. Drug Testing and Analysis, 9(6), 905–915. https://doi.org/10.1002/dta.2092 

Author: Alex Frost
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Alex Frost, Marketing Manager at Lyphe Group, brings a diverse and creative background to his role. Prior to joining Lyphe, he spent five years as a freelance illustrator, where he not only honed his artistic and conceptual skills but also demonstrated his prowess in digital marketing. During this period, he successfully grew the social channel he managed to over 40,000 followers using solely organic digital marketing strategies. This hands-on experience provided him with valuable insights and a deep understanding of the intricacies of digital marketing and social media algorithms. Alex's marketing journey kicked off at The Sports Trust, where he managed large-scale events and successfully expanded a new project to over 25,000 collective social media followers. At Lyphe Group, Alex applies this wealth of diverse experience to innovate and shape the narrative in cannabis marketing. His blend of artistic creativity, digital marketing acumen, and a literary foundation make him a dynamic force in the ever-evolving landscape of cannabis branding and promotion.

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