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Worker Sacked After Failing Drug Test Because He Took Medicinal Cannabis

Worker sacked after failing drug test because he took medicinal cannabis

 A worker sacked after failing a drug test because he was taking medicinal cannabis has commenced legal action.

26 year-old Mitchell Rice is suing Queensland Rail (QR) for discrimination in the Federal Circuit and Family Court.

He claims his doctor prescribed the medication to treat his anxiety.

The claim

Rice worked as a support maintainer for QR since July 9 last year.

He claims QR discriminated against him in contravention of the Fair Work Act when it sacked him on August 16 2021.

He wants $91,750 plus interest in economic loss, in addition to a lump sum of $150,000 for distress.

Worker sacked after failing drug test

In December 2020, Rice began suffering from anxiety.

He claims sleep deprivation caused by his shift work and his mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis caused the anxiety.

Rice acted as his mother’s main carer. His brother suffers from mental disabilities and does not work, and his father receives a disability pension.

As a result, his doctor, Daniel Van Dijk, prescribed Rice medicinal cannabis, specifically THC Flower Relax Daylesford Bud.

However, Dr Van Dijk advised Rice not to take the medication within eight hours of starting work, to ensure he was not impaired.

Rice emailed a supervisor advising that his doctor had prescribed the medicinal cannabis.

Less than three weeks later, QR placed him on light duties.

Mitchell Rice is suing Queensland Rail for discrimination.

Unfit for work

On 21 January 2021, QR’s chief medical officer deemed Rice temporarily unfit for work and, as a result, the transit authority stood him down with pay.

In February 2021, Rice’s mother died. Her life insurance and superannuation fund payments subsequently ceased, leaving Rice as the sole financial earner for his family.

He therefore contacted QR on February 25 expressing his desire to return to work and offering to refrain from taking his medication. He returned to work soon after.

The failed drug test

On June 1, Rice completed a random drug test. He declared he had started taking his medication again and had a dose two nights earlier.

His test results subsequently came back positive for tetrahydrocannabinol, a main component in cannabis.

QR suspended him that day and terminated his employment two months later.


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Test case

Rice’s solicitor Jeremy Kennedy, told The Brisbane Times he believed the case will set a legal precedent.  

“The evidence is that providing the drug like any prescription, there is no impairment at work,” he said.

“We think this is a social issue that needs to be determined by the courts to try to change employers’ views on this drug and how it should be used and considered in the workplace.”

Safety number one priority

A QR spokesperson told The Brisbane Times in a statement:

“Safety is Queensland Rail’s number one priority, with all employees and contractors required to be fit for work at all times while on duty.

“This includes having a blood alcohol concentration reading of zero and a level of other drugs under the target concentration level as outlined in the Australian standard.”

The court will hear the matter for the first time tomorrow.

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