As of March 2018, eight states have legalized the use of marijuana, and 27 states have legalized the use of medical marijuana.  The trend of states legalizing the medical and recreational use of marijuana is not expected to reduce.  The marijuana industry is worth billions worldwide.  Growing a billion-dollar, legalized, marijuana industry that encompasses the globe will eventually collide with organizations. Every organization strives to prevent workplace hazards that can cause injuries, death, and reduced employee productivity.

Unfortunately, the legalization of marijuana will result in the bewilderment of shareholders who expect fiscal results from companies. Also, the effects of marijuana on society as a whole will cause a haze of uncertainty.  The states of Washington and Colorado legalized marijuana in 2012, and yet, no clear data is available to be analyzed which accurately lists the effects of the legal, medical, or recreational use of marijuana on employees and businesses.  As more states and more populations gain access to the drug and gain access to research data on marijuana, laws will need to change, and companies will need to alter their policies.

According to Quest Diagnostics (2018), “Overall, marijuana positivity continued its five-year upward trajectory in urine testing for both the general U.S. workforce and the federally-mandated, safety-sensitive workforce.” The data also indicates that the increase took place in two different areas of the workforce. “Marijuana positivity increased four percent in the general U.S. workforce (2.5% in 2016 versus 2.6% in 2017) and nearly eight percent in the safety-sensitive workforce (0.78% versus 0.84%).”

California is amongst the most progressive states as far as the medical and recreational use of marijuana is concerned.  California legalized marijuana and is beginning to see uncertainties about organizations testing employees. Unfortunately, both employers and employees are confused about what level of use of marijuana is legal and illegal.  One of the most recent court cases in The Supreme Court of California sided with a business about a termination due to medical marijuana use because the level of use violated federal law.  However, in the state of Maine, a new law will create a ‘model’ applicant drug-testing policy into effect except for testing using regulations from the Department of Transportation (DOT).

The legal issues that need to be reviewed per state, city, and other local laws include:

  • Pre-employment drug testing
  • Post-employment drug testing
  • State constitutional rights to privacy
  • Radom drug testing
  • Usage of drugs on the business property
  • Usage of drugs while at work

Resources that organizations will need:

  1. The National Cannabis Bar Association (https://www.canbar.org/)
  2. Continuing Education Of The Bar (http://mjlawhub.ceb.com/)
  3. Society For Human Resource Management (https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/state-and-local-updates/pages/recreational-marijuana-laws-workplace-employment.aspx)

Although the conversation primarily revolves around marijuana, it is worth noting that it is not the only drug employers need to worry about in the workplace.  According to Quest Diagnostics, cocaine and methamphetamine usage has increased as well, resulting in one of the highest drug rates in the workforce in more than a decade.  Another cautionary area is the ever-growing area of hemp products that are legal and could indicate a positive THC with individuals that use high dosages of the products. Present day is a great time to update organizational policies and procedures to conform to new laws about drugs.  I suggest two things: (1) hire a lawyer to review any updates or changes to your organization’s policies today and (2) create a plan to consistently review procedures as the pot industry continues to grow.

Here are two main issues to address as your company navigates the growing pot industry:

☑️ How are you going to keep your shareholders safe?

☑️ How are you going to keep your employee’s productive?


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