The legalization of marijuana has caused confusion as to how it could work best in the workplace setup. Marijuana legalization may have brought a sense of relief to both medical and recreational marijuana users. However, despite its legalization, employers are now facing issues regarding the policies of drug testing in the workplace.
The conundrum of legalizing cannabis and maintaining workplace safety has put business owners in a bind, finding themselves between crossroads on how to implement the workplace drug policies without having to deal with right-to-privacy issues regarding medical conditions of their employees.
On the other side of the fence, job applicants are now confused whether to submit themselves to the company’s drug testing policy or to decline the job. Should they agree to undergo drug testing and potentially be singled out as a drug user in case of a positive result?
Concerns with Marijuana Legalization
In this scenario, two major questions may be raised in relation to marijuana legalization:
- Should there be a need to totally eradicate drug policies within the workplace?
- How can employees be protected from potential termination or lawsuits?
Despite the advantages of marijuana legalization, this issue has become a burden on most employers. They need to come up with a solution about who to test, when to do the test, and if they should even implement drug testing in the workplace.
Lawmakers may have only focused on making marijuana legal to avoid prosecution of the users. However, it’s possible that they missed out on the aspect where the protection of the employers and employees should be considered. For employers, their main goal is to be able to sustain their respective businesses where their employees are able to work comfortably and safely, with high productivity.
No employer would tolerate drug use while working even if an employee is taking marijuana for medical purposes. Drug policies in the workplace were created to ensure that every employee is able to do his job and not to report to work under the influence of either drugs or alcohol.
More than 70 percent of illicit drug users belong to the workforce. This is quite an alarming number considering that drug use while on the job would affect more than just lost productivity, but also increased health insurance claims and even death.
States with Legal Medical Marijuana Use
Each state has its own provisions with regards to drug testing in the workplace. However, under the federal law, employees working in certain industries are required to undergo drug testing. Such industries include aviation, transportation, mining, construction and sports.
Marijuana legalization in the United States has taken so many years before it was finally implemented on several states. The latest vote in November 8, 2016 added more states that started to adapt the legalization of marijuana use. As of that date, more than half of U.S. states already allow medical marijuana use. These include:
Each state has its own provisions in implementing marijuana legalization.
Marijuana is legal for recreational use in Alaska, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada. These states allow adults aged 21 years and older to recreational use of marijuana but with provisions on the amount that they can use or buy, and can only purchase these through legitimate stores.
The state of California allows use, possession and cultivation of marijuana by individuals who have written recommendations by their physicians. Approved conditions to use medical marijuana include HIV/AIDS, arthritis, cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma, migraine, muscular spasms, MS, and seizures. However, employers in California implement strict drug policies wherein they require employees to pass a drug test. Companies may decline employment to those who are found to be using marijuana even if it were for medical purposes.
Why Do Companies Implement Marijuana Drug Testing in the Workplace?
The reasons behind implementing drug testing procedures in line with marijuana legalization include the following:
- To assure the safety for all employees
- To save the company a lot of money from absenteeism and health insurance claims
- To decrease crime within the workplace
- To increase productivity
- To improve health of employees
- To enhance the morale within the workplace
However, some companies who need employees to work on heavy machinery now see marijuana drug testing as a hindrance in finding the right people to be employed. This is because applicants refuse to show up for drug tests. Pre-employment drug testing, although significant and beneficial, just seem to be an unwelcome thought for some applicants.
How Employers Should Handle Employee Marijuana Use
Employers are now experiencing a higher level of difficulty in looking for applicants to fill up their vacant job positions. This is due to the fact that some applicants would walk out in the middle of an interview once they are informed that drug testing will be a requirement in the hiring process. As a result, some employees would either disregard pre-employment drug testing or remove random drug testing policies among its current employees for fear of losing their best employees.
Fortunately, there are ways on how employers can best handle prospective employees with regards to marijuana use. These tips would be helpful to know how the company’s drug policies can still be implemented without having to step on anyone’s rights.
- Employers should be able to ask employees if they are taking any medication. With the employee’s right to privacy in mind, the employer must ensure that any medicine taken by the employee would not in any way interfere with the quality of work of the employee and that it should be used in a responsible manner.
- There may be certain employees who are using medical marijuana. Because of this, employers should think about reconsidering. The employee should, however, make sure that if there is a need to take medical cannabis during working hours, it should be done discreetly.
- Drug policies should be regularly reviewed, revised, and updated with regards to employee’s recreational use of marijuana. For instance, the policy should state that although recreational use of marijuana in the state may be allowed, but it should define whether the company will allow recreational marijuana use within the workplace.
- Completely banning employees who use marijuana in states where its use is legal may face some serious issues. Instead of focusing on cannabis use of an employee, the employer should instead monitor and put attention to the worker’s overall job performance. In industries where employees are operating heavy machinery, marijuana use should be strictly prohibited.
- Lunch and break times should not be a reason for employees to use marijuana for recreational purposes. While employers would want to respect the privacy of each employee during those times, employers need to be assured by the employees that they can work efficiently without having to take any psychoactive substance when working hours resume.
Rights and Responsibilities of Employers
When it comes to marijuana legalization and its impact in the workplace, employers need to accept the following rights and responsibilities:
- Employers have the right to appoint and dismiss employees in accordance with company procedures. They should expect reasonable level of performance from their employees and provide a healthy and safe workplace.
- Employers do not have the right to discriminate against existing or potential employees with regards to race, ethnicity and religion. They should also not allow sexual harassment or vilification to occur in the workplace.
- Employers should assure that employees are not discriminated, harassed or violated in any way.
- They should be responsible in educating all employees with regards to their responsibilities and behavioral standards that are acceptable in the workplace.
Rights and Responsibilities of Employees
Employees have their own rights that should be well recognized in terms of marijuana legalization, such as:
- The right to a healthy and safe workplace
- The right to any information about the hazards of the job
- The right to file complaint should they find any workplace hazards
- The right to not be discriminated, threatened, harassed or be treated differently
Meanwhile, every employee’s responsibility is to:
- Read company policies and guidelines
- Comply with applicable safety standards
- Report any hazardous conditions to the employer
- Work efficiently and give 100% compliance to assigned tasks
- Report any job-related illnesses or injury and seek immediate treatment
Marijuana Drug Testing in the Workplace
Drug testing for weed may not be easy to implement for any employer. However, if a well-written company policy is presented to employees and job applicants to emphasize the safety and protection of every individual in the workplace, then this can create a more positive impact to every employee.
Pre-employment drug testing may not be reliable as one of the requirements for hiring an applicant because the presence of marijuana in the body may last for days. This means that an individual who may have stopped using marijuana for a week may still get a positive drug result. However, testing positive does not mean that an employee may produce poor work performance.
Understanding Drug Policies in the Workplace
It should be clearly written on the company’s drug policies when and what grounds would the company initiate drug testing to employees. It should also indicate the measures to be taken, should an employee be found to be positive with marijuana.
An employer may be free from any liabilities should he find out that an employee’s performance has been compromised due to working under the influence of marijuana or other substances. To create an effective system within your workplace, there are three important things that employers should do:
- Be fully aware of the state’s law regarding marijuana
- Review company’s policies regularly
- Enforce your company’s drug policy and request employees for strict compliance
Ultimately, employers should be able to effectively communicate with the employees. Not all employees may be aware of the state’s legalization of marijuana, which could allow the employer to set workers aside due to marijuana use. In other words, a thorough discussion on the effect of marijuana use and how it can affect performance in the workplace should be done, so that employees will be able to understand.
A drug policy should be part of any organization to ensure that all employees are aware about the dangers of using marijuana. The company policy should have the provision to give assistance to those who are found to be positive, and to educate supervisors to help them determine whether an employee is fit to work.
All in all, the company drug policy should be able to determine which of the workers may be working under the influence of cannabis. This can protect the entirety of the workforce and maintain a healthy and safe workplace for everyone in the company, even in the face of the growing trend of marijuana legalization.