Last updated: November 27, 2023
Marijuana is legal in many states—but legal doesn’t mean being high at work. Know how to identify marijuana use in the workplace to maintain a safe working environment.
For the moment, it remains illegal to possess or use marijuana under federal law. However, the government is choosing to look the other way regarding its stance on marijuana where individual states are concerned. Even though marijuana is legal in many states, employers who want their companies to remain drug-free need to know how to identify marijuana use in the workplace.
Some human resources (HR) departments across the nation are scrambling to stay up on the changes regarding marijuana and the workplace. Subsequently, they’re also dealing with a disgruntled workforce who feels it’s unfair to keep pot on the company drug test when it has been legalized in that state.
Why the outcry?
After ingesting marijuana, the user suffers impairment for a period of time. So, it’s perfectly understandable that employers test for it. The issue that concerns people is that marijuana metabolites remain in the body for a long period of time after impairment ends.
Therefore, people who smoke pot or consume edibles daily can test positive for THC for weeks—even months—after discontinuing use. Because of that fact, some courts have begun to side with employees who claim that legally using medical marijuana at home has resulted in job loss because they popped positive on a drug test at work.
Even though states are choosing to legalize marijuana, experts agree that employers should keep it on the drug test.
Luraine Bifulco, president and CEO of Vantaggio HR Ltd., a human resources consulting firm in Orange County, California, said, “From an HR perspective, it’s, ‘Oh my gosh, could you do anything to make my life more complicated?’ Every day we turn around and find out there’s a state or city that legalizes some form of marijuana use. The challenge for HR is keeping up to speed with the current climate and what an employer can and cannot do with regard to marijuana and the workplace. It’s changing extremely fast.”
Statistics gathered from the 2016 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration survey showed that about 24 million Americans currently use marijuana. That coupled with the fact that Quest Diagnostics reported a 35% increase in marijuana positivity results since 2010 proves that the population at large believes marijuana to be a “harmless drug.”
Many people believe that marijuana testing should follow the way of alcohol testing. However, there is no test for current impairment so that’s not possible. Until it is, employers have every right to keep marijuana on their company drug tests.
Signs of use
If you have a drug-free program in place, management personnel should be trained to identify marijuana impairment. Your policies should warrant that they document any suspicion of drug impairment in writing before approaching the employee about their drug use.
Signs of marijuana impairment include:
- Relaxed attitude
- Mild increase in heart rate and blood pressure
- Inability to concentrate
- Short-term memory loss
- Distorted sense of time
- Dry mouth
- Reddening of the eyes
- Increased appetite
Additionally, long-term effects include:
- Decreased appetite
It’s important to note that people using cannabidiol (CBD) products can test positive for marijuana as well. That’s because the manufacturing process releases tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that induces impairment, into the product.
That’s a problem because, without testing, there’s no way to know how much THC is extracted along with the CBD. People using these products unknowingly ingest THC at levels that cause a positive test result.
Several companies are competing to be the first to release a marijuana breathalyzer. This product, when perfected, will revolutionize the drug testing industry. Until then, employers have every right to keep testing for marijuana if it’s been legalized in their state for medical or recreational use.
If it’s on your drug test, your team should know how to identify marijuana use in the workplace. Moreover, employees know that it’s on the test and can choose to abstain or face the possible consequences.
Drugs cloud the mind and affect mobility. Drug use in the workplace puts the user and all those in the vicinity at higher risk of being involved in an accident. Subsequently, it’s your job as an employer to do everything within your power to prevent that from happening.
Your employees are your biggest asset. Implementing a drug-free workplace program shows them you care about their well-being. Statistics prove that there are fewer reported accidents after putting drug-free policies in place. Besides that important fact, drug-free workplaces provide employers with additional benefits.
- Lower turnover
- Increased productivity
- Less absenteeism
- Lower medical costs
Be able to identify marijuana use in the workplace. Stay abreast of marijuana laws regarding legalization in your state. Update your drug-free policies when necessary to stay in compliance with state law.
Ultimately, those are the best tips for navigating the way as marijuana legalization becomes a reality across the nation.