The National Safety Council (NSC) recommends moving people using medical marijuana to non-safety sensitive positions after determining that no level of marijuana use is safe or acceptable. In its latest workplace position paper, the council cited the increased likelihood of workplace incidents and the inability to determine a marijuana user’s level of impairment.
New Jersey recently expanded its medical marijuana program, and legislators are expected to vote this year on legalizing marijuana for recreational use. NJBIA has emphasized that any legalization bill must include an employer’s right to maintain a drug-free workplace. The medical marijuana expansion law includes provisions protecting drug-free workplaces, and a separate recreational-use bill voted on earlier this year also contained such provisions, though the measure did not pass.
The NSC position paper cited the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s report that found employees who tested positive for marijuana were 55% more likely to be involved in industrial incidents, 85% more likely to be injured, and had 75% greater absenteeism.
“NSC believes it is unsafe to be under the influence of cannabis while working in a safety sensitive position due to the increased risk of injury or death to the operator and others,” the position paper states. “Research is clear that cannabis impacts psychomotor skills and cognitive ability. However, the amount of THC detectable in the body does not directly correlate to a degree of impairment. At this time, NSC believes there is no level of cannabis use that is safe or acceptable for employees who work in safety sensitive positions.”
At HR Dive, writer Jennifer Carsen noted that marijuana’s status as both a legal and illegal drug makes it difficult for employers to set reliable policies, particularly when you consider there is no test to determine the level of an employee’s impairment the way a blood alcohol level test can.
“This discrepancy presents obvious enforcement challenges for employers, especially when it comes to employees using medical marijuana for an impairment,” Carsen writes.
“Experts recommend that employers get familiar with any medical marijuana laws that apply to their particular jurisdiction, review potentially problematic ‘zero tolerance’ drug policies, and try to focus more on unacceptable behaviors (such as performance, conduct or safety issues) rather than drug test results,” she writes.