America is going “green” … a different kind of green.
Four more states passed recreational marijuana laws last year, while other states saw advancements in medical marijuana legislation.
At least 35 states have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes and as of Jan. 1, 2021, 17 states plus Washington, D.C. have fully legalized marijuana use for recreational purposes. The following states have completely decriminalized weed:
- New Jersey
- New York
- South Dakota
*Note: This list is subject to change at any time.
While possession and use of marijuana remain illegal at the federal level, this green revolution at the state level has led to a confusing slate of legislation through which employers must sift.
With new state laws passing regularly, including some that limit a company’s ability to fire an employee for failing a drug test or even testing for it at all, and many marijuana laws still expected to come, employers are left spinning.
Marijuana and the workplace: Best Practices
While marijuana has long been known for its calming properties, employers should be anything but calm when it comes to navigating marijuana rules for workers. Especially those who fall under federal requirements for testing marijuana and other substances.
An increasing number of workers are failing drug tests, especially in states with medicinal and recreational laws, according to Quest Diagnostics.
So what are employers to do? The first step is to create a policy around marijuana use in the workplace; similar to your alcohol policy. However, since marijuana burns off much slower than alcohol, you must also determine your tolerance threshold for workers who use marijuana when they’re off the clock, showing up to work sober.
The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) recommends the following:
- Do not tolerate marijuana use on the job
- Provide training to managers on how to spot signs of impairment
- Carefully consider the types of testing you will use and stay on top of technological developments
- Review all relevant laws and speak with an attorney before implementing a drug testing policy.
- For nationwide companies, tailor policies by geography taking into consideration state and local laws.
- Educate employees about company policies and repercussions for policy violations.
Recruiting and retaining talent
Today’s competitive labor market complicates things further.
Marijuana is the most commonly used Schedule I drug in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with approximately 37.6 million users per year.
While many people may use marijuana responsibly, some employers struggle with the desire to recruit and maintain top talent that may not be able to pass drug test.
It’s become such a complicated issue, in fact, a small subset of employers has stopped marijuana testing altogether.
But that might be a dangerous path.
There are benefits to testing marijuana in the workplace, where permitted by law, including:
- Employee Safety: Even if an employee is completely sober, chronic marijuana use can have lasting, long-term effects. A compliant drug testing program can help keep all employees safe.
- Employee Productivity: Like any controlled substance, marijuana can be addictive. Addictions of any kind can lead to productivity issues in the workplace.
- Employee Support: If an employee struggles with addiction, knowing their employer conducts drug-related screenings can be a motivating factor in sobriety.
- Employee Health: Drug use comes with a number of health risks. But by investing in educating employees on the risk of drug use and by administering random drug tests, a healthier workplace is created.