Last updated: September 14, 2020
In October 2017, the city of Atlanta loosened its grip on marijuana. The resulting misinterpretation of the move left employers wondering if they should stop testing their employees for the drug. The question of drug testing employees brings to light the confusion that recent legalization of marijuana has brought to the workplace.
Before answering this question, let us consider what the Atlanta City’s marijuana legislation says.
On October 2, 2017, the Atlanta City Council unanimously voted to reduce the penalty on the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. Previously, the city used the state of Georgia’s laws which provided for a jail term of up to six months and a fine of not more than $1000 for anyone caught in possession of marijuana, irrespective of the amount.
The 2017 legislation reduced the fines to $75, and no jail term for anyone caught with less than one ounce of the cannabis. It is, therefore, clear that the new legislation does not legalize the possession or use of marijuana.
Drug testing for marijuana in Atlanta
While the penalty on the possession of marijuana in Atlanta has been reduced, and medical marijuana has been legalized throughout Georgia, it is still illegal at the federal level. Furthermore, all employers regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT) are still required to conduct a drug testing program that meets DOT guidelines. Additionally, the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that employers are still entitled to enforce a drug-free workplace policy.
Effects of marijuana use in the workplace
Safety is the primary reason why the use of marijuana is banned in most workplaces. The National Institute on Drug Abuse highlights the short-term effects of the drug as memory lapses, thinking difficulties, loss of the sense of time and impaired body movement. It is no surprise that the drug is related to numerous job injuries and accidents.
Atlanta is known for its extensive transport and manufacturing industries. The jobs in these sectors are considered safety-sensitive by federal laws. NIDA reports that marijuana impairs a person’s driving capabilities thus increasing the risk of collisions and crashes.
Marijuana is known to negatively impact the productivity of workers because its effects, such as loss of the sense of time, encourage absenteeism and delayed deadlines.
Accidents at the workplace are also costly to the business. In fact, a study done by the Department of Labor showed that businesses lost $81.6bn in one year alone due to drug and alcohol use.
Employees under the influence of marijuana are prone to adversely affect the morale of coworkers, because they don’t pull their own weight and often cause conflict, which may make the reliable, hardworking employees move on to opportunities elsewhere.
A written workplace drug policy
Several measures can be taken into creating a drug-free workplace. A written drug policy is the first and probably the most effective measure. It should explain the purpose of the policy, which include:
- Protecting the safety and health of employees, customers, and the public.
- Preserving the company’s reputation and integrity through quality products and services.
- Protecting assets from damage and theft.
- Promoting compliance with the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 as well as other local and state laws.
A written drug-free workplace policy should outline the following:
- A list of all the prohibited drugs, which should include marijuana
- Should explain the consequences of violating the policy
- Should explain the specific people who are affected by the policy to avoid misunderstandings
The use of marijuana has a negative impact on workplace safety and productivity. Employers have the sole discretion of ensuring their workplace is drug-free. They can achieve this by having a written drug-free workplace policy and sticking to it. Furthermore, the use or possession of marijuana for any other reason except medicinal purpose is still illegal in Atlanta.