Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:20): My question today is for Minister Stitt in her capacity as workplace safety minister. Professor Johanna Maclean of Temple University in the US has just completed a landmark research paper studying the impacts of medicinal cannabis legislation on workers compensation claims. She found that there was a 14 per cent reduction in income derived from workers compensation claims in older adults, aged 40 to 62, in states that had legalised medicinal cannabis. This was in part due to a major reduction in people moving away from therapeutic substitutes like opioids. Will the minister move to ensure that employees who have been legally prescribed medicinal cannabis are free from the worry of facing the sack if found with a small amount of THC from their medication in their system?
Ms STITT (Western Metropolitan—Minister for Workplace Safety, Minister for Early Childhood) (12:21): I thank Ms Patten for her question. Of course supporting injured workers to return to work is a priority. I am not advised on the specifics of cannabis use in this workers compensation space, but I am happy to see what further information I might be able to provide to the member on that point.
What I can say generally is that when considering modern treatments and medicines WorkSafe agents are guided by the WorkSafe non-established new or emerging treatments and services policy. So an agent can consider paying the reasonable costs of non-established new or emerging treatments and services, and that can include medications, equipment or particular surgeries, for example, in exceptional circumstances when it is required as a result of a work-related injury or illness.
For that request to be considered by the agent, the requesting practitioner must provide strong clinical evidence of the safety and efficacy of the treatment or service. But, as I said, I am happy to see what other information I might be able to provide in addition on the specifics of your question around disciplinary action for any worker. I am happy to take that part of the question on notice.
Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:23): Thanks, Minister. I think we are seeing a growing number of Victorians using medicinal cannabis, and their concerns at the moment are around workplace drug testing. So by way of a question: would you consider providing advice and developing guidelines for workplaces that do drug testing on how they resolve the issue with medicinal cannabis patients?
Ms STITT (Western Metropolitan—Minister for Workplace Safety, Minister for Early Childhood) (12:23): It is an interesting question. I think that many employers would already have policies in place in their workplaces around mandatory or random drug testing, so I think that it probably strays a little bit outside of the workplace safety portfolio in that regard. But, again, I am happy to see what information WorkSafe might be able to provide to help the member with this matter.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Question without notice 23/6/21