Puff, Puff, or Pass: The Truth About Marijuana and the Workplace

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Cannabis is inevitably going to impact the workplace. There’s no shortage of speculation about what legalization will look like in regards to the office, but how will the new laws specifically impact your clients’ organizations? Changes are occurring rapidly within all legislative bodies; medical marijuana is now legal in 33 states, and recreational use is (or will be) legal in 11 states. More and more people are accepting the use of marijuana and support legalization. In fact, 65% of Americans believe marijuana should be legal.

People use marijuana products with various THC and CBD levels for chronic pain and other medical conditions. As more products contain marijuana and as more states legalize it for medicinal or recreational use, it’s crucial for businesses to prepare clear policies. Here’s the truth about marijuana and the workplace:

Uncertainty With Different Laws

State by state legislation can make it complicated for employers to define a policy, as state and national politicians are still trying to agree on this topic. However, it’s wise for organizations to get ahead and stay up-to-date on this topic before it becomes a problem. Companies need to be aware of both federal and state laws, especially those with remote and gig workers where differences exist between the state an employee resides in and the state the business is located in. So, where do they even begin?

Employers need to stay on top of new legislation so they’re aware of how this will impact their policies. Employees also need to know what is expected of them. Managers don’t want their employees coming to work high, and with medical marijuana being legal in some states, it’s hard to determine how to drug test those who have prescriptions. There are a lot of issues to navigate here. The key is staying up-to-date with legislation and court decisions and update policies accordingly.

It’s important to stay up-to-date on local law changes and to update your policy as new laws are passed. Learn more from @RealThinkHR on ways #marijuana might affect the #workplace: Click To Tweet

Impacts on the Workplace

Employees using marijuana, whether medical or recreational, can have an impact on company culture, brand reputation, and client relationships. Marijuana use can impact the ability to learn, memory, IQ, mental health, and driving ability. Injuries, accidents, and absenteeism can all be results of employees misusing marijuana. There is a difference between employees abusing marijuana and abiding by a legal marijuana policy. A well laid out policy can ensure a company maintains a healthy, high-performing work culture.

It can be challenging for employers to establish a policy that meets all the safety, productivity, healthcare, hiring processes, and legality guidelines. When it comes to hiring new employees, legal marijuana is going to increase the number of people who cannot pass pre-employment and random drug tests. Be aware of this risk and create a strategy to combat it.

With continual change in cannabis laws, it’s essential to be preemptive with your drug policy. Take action in your workplace by educating your workers and training your managers. Decide beforehand how you’re going to handle potential situations. Failing to take action at the moment will only make handling this topic a more significant issue in the future.

What to do Next

What should organizations be doing to protect themselves from the potential risks associated with cannabis use? Companies in states that do not have legal medical or recreational marijuana use can probably maintain their zero-tolerance policy. But what happens when an employee uses marijuana in a legal state, and fails a drug test in a state without legalized marijuana? We don’t have an answer yet as the question hasn’t been resolved by the courts.

With the snowball of #CannabisLegalization across the country, you may find yourself adjusting your office policy. Read more from @RealThinkHR: Click To Tweet

Employers should keep this uncertainty in mind until the courts provide an answer or the federal government legalizes marijuana. Companies in states that have legalized the medical or recreational use of marijuana should draft a policy clearly defining their position, the processes that must be followed, and the behaviors that are expected to protect their employees and the business. Without this, employers might experience an increase in workplace accidents and injuries, more absenteeism, or even allegations of discrimination against medical marijuana users:

Here’s where you should start:

    • Find out whether your state has employment-based protections for applicants or employees who use marijuana. This is most likely to be the case for medical marijuana. The company should also review any specific policy requirements–for example, based on their industry or status as a federal contractor.
    • Your company should have a written policy that provides guidelines of what’s prohibited and what type of testing occurs, if any.
    • After the policy is written, it is a good idea to discuss it with the employees because it’s difficult to enforce a policy that was never properly communicated and the increasing legalization has created a lot of confusion regarding employment-related testing and discipline. Let employees know the policy will be enforced as is, but that it may be updated and revised as marijuana laws change.
    • Include the policy in the employee handbook and incorporate it into the new hire process as an easy way to keep employees up-to-date. Once employees understand the policy, it’s important to apply it evenly. If the same person is being “randomly” drug tested throughout the year when others are never tested, employees are likely to become skeptical. It’s essential to be consistent and unbiased when implementing a sensitive policy like this.

Making it a priority to have this conversation with employees can both ensure everyone is on the same page and clarify expectations before issues come to the surface. ThinkHR’s compliance, training, and documentation solutions are great resources for insurance brokers.

Download a free map indicating which states have legalized medical or recreational marijuana. ThinkHR customers can get guidance on federal and state drug and alcohol testing laws or update employee handbook drug testing policies to be compliant in each state in which they operate. It’s crucial to stay up-to-date on local law changes and to update your policy as new laws are passed.

Find out how ThinkHR’s People Risk Management Solution can help you stay ahead of the curve here!

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