Last updated: May 17, 2021
Despite the fact that a democratic president isn’t on board with totally removing marijuana from the controlled substances act, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to push the plan. He stated earlier this month that he’s calling for Democrats to press for marijuana legalization at the federal level.
It was Schumer who first introduced the bill as the “Marijuana Justice Act” back in 2018. It failed to pass, however, and was reworked and reintroduced as the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019 by Senator Kamala Harris. The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives in December 2020.
Speculation from that point leans toward there not being much hope of it passing the Senate. Still, Schumer seemed very optimistic when announcing his plan to move forward with or without President Biden’s consent. He stated during the Politico interview that he was in the process of crafting new legislation. Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Cory Booker of New Jersey are assisting him in the process.
Republican leaders are largely against the federal legalization of the drug. Still, Schumer says the first step is to introduce his new comprehensive bill and “then start sitting down with people who are not for this in both parties, and A) try to educate them, B) see what their objections are and if they have some modifications that don’t interfere with the main thrust of the bill.”
He stated that he had no problem listening to some suggestions if that’s what it takes to bring others on board with the plan.
Legalization vs employee drug testing
With a growing number of states choosing to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana use, there are some issues coming to light. Overall, though, employers have every right to keep testing for pot.
Marijuana is a mind-altering drug and there is no place for impaired minds in the workplace. It’s nothing but a safety hazard for both the user and anyone who is working with or around them.
Even so, that doesn’t stop marijuana advocates from calling for laws that would force employers to drop it from all company drug tests. They feel justified to do so because, at the moment, drug tests identify drug metabolites rather than the parent drug.
Marijuana stays in the system long past the point of impairment. That’s because the metabolites store themselves in the fat cells awaiting excretion. Occasional users can test positive days after smoking the drug. Long-term, heavy use causes a positive result for thirty to sixty days after discontinuing use.
However, until there is a test for current impairment, the majority of employers choose to keep marijuana on the test despite the resistance they are receiving.
Another issue that has come to light is for companies that operate in more than one state. Differing laws between states can make it impossible to use a company-wide drug test.
This is especially true for trucking companies.
Speaking of the trucking industry
What will legalization at the federal level mean for companies mandated by the Department of Transportation (DOT)?
It’s not clear if the DOT has planned ahead for marijuana legalization at the federal level. We can only hope they will follow the lead of state legislatures who are leaving “carve-outs” in place to protect the general public.
Marijuana use affects the user’s cognitive thinking skills. That means if someone smokes marijuana and gets behind the wheel, they can cause an accident. Smoking pot slows down reaction times. Moreover, if a driver is distracted and loses focus on the road for even a second, they can be involved in an accident.
The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse reported that marijuana violations topped the list of abused substances. As a matter of fact, nearly half of the 21,156 drug violations reported through May 2020 were for marijuana.
It’s a matter of public safety.
On the homefront
It’s important that we continue to educate our employees on the dangers of drug use—all drug use.
It’s important that all employees are aware of what your drug-free policy entails. They should each be provided with a copy. It’s also a good idea to post it somewhere so employees can easily access the information online.
It’s a known fact that we’ve grown accustomed to receiving information in short bits. Take advantage of that knowledge to positively promote your drug-free program.
Send out short bits of information about the dangers of drug use periodically using texts or emails. Even better? Create a short video to promote the topic. These are all proven methods of increasing employee engagement—you should give them a try.
At least once a year, you could schedule a class—or a few classes to be held during work hours rather than on a weekend so you can stagger attendance—that is focused on drug addiction or spotting the signs that someone is using drugs.
Make sure your management teams are comfortable with your reasonable suspicion policy and the role they play in handling such a situation.
With marijuana legalization seeming to appear on a ballot somewhere with each passing election, it’s likely that it will be legalized nationwide eventually—at the state level anyway.
It remains to be seen what the federal government will decide to do as Schumer’s new bill is debated on the floor. Still, we need to start applying pressure to keep marijuana testing in place.
Officials need to provide carve-outs so truck drivers and others that transport passengers and goods across our nation won’t think they have a green light to do so when they’re stoned.