Question: With cannabis now legal in Canada, how are teachers affected?
Answer: Legalization has not changed the expectations for teachers regarding the use of cannabis. It has long been the presumption that teachers report to school ready to work and free from impairment. Consequently, the use of cannabis, or any other drug, cannot impair a teacher’s performance while at work. This includes impairment from alcohol, prescription medication or even over-the-counter medication. Many board policies state that teachers cannot be impaired while at work, and the Alberta Teachers’ Association supports this expectation.
Teachers who are using medicinal marijuana need to ensure that the THC content is zero. This guarantees that the marijuana can be used for pain relief or as prescribed by their physician but that it contains no hallucinatory component.
While some boards require teachers to disclose their use of the medicinal oil, we do not concur with this expectation because this product should not impair the teacher’s performance. Teachers would not disclose other medications they are taking; medicinal marijuana should be no different.
If a teacher requires a workplace accommodation due to a medical issue, this would need to be shared with the employer so the accommodation can be implemented. However, if no accommodation is required, there is no need to disclose the information.
Finally, it is important that teachers remember that the Code of Professional Conduct governs their behaviour at all times. While possessing and smoking cannabis are now legal, the question remains as to whether or not being seen purchasing, smoking or in possession of marijuana constitutes unprofessional conduct. This will ultimately be left for a professional conduct committee to decide.
Teachers simply need to remember that they are role models and are setting an example for students, and that as teachers they are charged with upholding the standards of the profession at all times. ❚
Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Dennis Theobald at Barnett House (firstname.lastname@example.org).