Naturally, corporations want the most productivity humanly possible from each and every employee. Unfortunately, running a business is never that simple. Every year in the United States, absenteeism, workplace accidents and increased healthcare claims cost organizations billions of dollars. It has been argued that the recent state-level legalization of marijuana has made it even harder for employers to manage these risks. Currently 10 States plus Washington D.C. have legalized the drug with a total of 33 states legalizing some type of medical marijuana program. With financial interests at the forefront of every business, employers must decide whether to risk workplace safety by relaxing their drug regulations and testing procedures or to keep a zero-tolerance drug policy.
2018 saw the highest positive employee drug test results in over a decade. Although marijuana is still illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act, the federal government has taken a hands-off approach to the marijuana industry, allowing the states to take the lead. While it is true that the different state and federal regulations put organizations in a risky position, it’s 3 other main factors that causes the most internal issues.
Issue #1: Determining Intoxication
It goes without saying that drinking on the job has always been grounds for termination. Alcohol is easy to smell, and a drunk employee is very noticeable. Unlike alcohol, marijuana is much harder to detect and test for. A positive test does not necessarily answer the question of whether that employee was using on the job or during their own personal time. Having loose state legalities and an imperfect testing system can mean an unsafe work environment.
Issue #2: Adult-Use vs. Medical Use
Employers must define the distinction between adult use and medical use of marijuana. Adult use typically means for recreational purposes while medical use refers to a variety of patients with a set of conditions outlined under state laws. In most cases, employers require drug screening before and sometimes randomly throughout employment. The waters get murky with drug tests because many states protect medical marijuana patients from employment discrimination, oftentimes influencing the creation of organizational drug policies.
Issue #3: Company Morale
Making disciplinary decisions is never easy and can even drive a wedge between yourself and your employees. With the legalization of marijuana, employees have the grounds to argue that discipline or even termination for a failed drug test, when marijuana is used off the clock, is discrimination. Whether it be strict regulations at the time of employment or reminders of company rules during their tenure, it is important for company morale that employees are aware of the expectations you have for your business.
With legalization and marijuana popularity continuing to grow, it is important for organizations to revisit their workplace regulations and experiment with different approaches that suit their culture. Unfortunately, there is no right or wrong answer on whether to keep your zero-tolerance rules or to enact lesser policies. If you’re struggling on what’s best for your company, contact Colony West today for a consultation on what we can do to help.