With more states legalizing recreational marijuana, it is important for employers to understand the problems that could arise in the workplace for employers and how to protect your company and employees. Complicating things a bit further, under federal law, marijuana remains illegal to use both medically and recreationally.

THC in marijuana affects depth perception, reaction time, coordination and other motor skills, and it creates sensory distortion. For someone operating machinery, driving a forklift or delivering products in a vehicle, these effects can be deadly.

According to a study reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, employees who tested positive for marijuana had 55% more industrial accidents, 85% more injuries and 75% greater absenteeism compared to those who tested negative. Also impacting the bottom line are:

  • Decreased productivity
  • Increased worker compensation and unemployment compensation claims
  • High turnover
  • Lawsuits

If marijuana becomes legal to use in your state, it impacts your hiring processes. You must take extra precaution to avoid discrimination against acts that are now deemed lawful as well as revisit your drug testing procedures. Since most drug tests are unable to pinpoint the date and time marijuana was used, it is important to check with your state and consult counsel on the legal processes of drug testing to remain in compliance with state and federal laws.

Studies show drug testing works; employees are three times less likely to produce a positive test result if they know they will be tested. An expanded testing panel that also includes the most commonly abused prescription drugs may better protect your workforce. An employer policy also should include:

  • Proper management training to make managers more likely to enforce the policy
  • Access to support for employees with drug problems, which can range from a formal assistance program to a referral to local resources
  • Clearly defined use and possession parameters for employees
  • Established rules for post-accident testing
  • Rules on how you will handle an employee’s conviction or arrest

A drug policy must be very specific and supported by workplace procedures to reduce the chance of litigation. Drug policy and workplace procedures should be reviewed by a lawyer to ensure they comply with state laws. And, policy must be updated frequently to keep up with changing laws and attitudes. The health and safety of your workforce depends on it.

If you have questions on your rights as an employer during these uncertain times of legal changes, seek counsel to revisit and amend your hiring practices.


 Source: National Safety Council Membership; Marijuana at Work: What Employers Need to Know – https://www.nsc.org/membership/training-tools/best-practices/marijuana-at-work