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.

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“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.


10 responses to “No Level of Marijuana is OK for Safety Sensitive Jobs, Safety Council Says”

  1. Being “under the influence” of marijuana’s psychotropic component (THC) is an indirect corollary of being impaired (and thus barred from actively occupying a “safety sensitive position”) owing to such use.

    Testing positive for THC, however, does not necessarily provide an indication of an employee’s impairment. Said another way, an employee who tests positive for THC is not, de facto, impaired.

    A person (dependent upon a host of factors) can test positive for THC many days after marijuana use and will not be impaired at the time of that testing. Accordingly, it is patently fair, unjust and unwise to consider adverse actions against an employee simply because he or she tests positive for THC presence.

    In order to come to a judicious decision in considering personnel actions that would adversely impact a marijuana user, the only reasonable yardstick should be impairment. Let science arrive at what level impairment exists, codify that level, effectively train the workforce and then “have at” those who would actively occupy “safety sensitive” positions while THC impaired.

    As an occupational safety & health professional for nearly forty five years, and as a person who occupies an honorary position on the New Jersey State Industrial Safety Committee and who was appointed to that committee nearly thirty years ago by the NJ Commissioner of Labor, I lament the gaping hole left in the National Safety Council’s position paper. In considering the on-the-job-related effects of marijuana, impairment is everything.

    • Dr says:

      Hey Ron, how about before legalizing anything questionable, we use some common sense,,,,no use is acceptable until we can have accurate testing to determine When and how much has been consumed. Oh, and thank the brain damaged potheads and the genius politicians for restarting the coming health crisis that we will soon be seeing, such as lung, throat, and oral cancer, thanks to inhalation of hot gases of combustion, approximately 2000 and counting as of now. I can’t wait for the lawyers to get their claws dug into this nationwide train wreck.

      • Well, Dr…… You’ve erroneously mistaken me for someone who advocates for the legalization of marijuana; I don’t.

        What I’m saying, is that impairment is the only equitable yardstick to determine whether or not a worker should be permitted to occupy a “safety sensitive” position. And until a threshold for impairment is established, adverse action against any worker who happens to test positive for THC is, at best, arbitrary.

        National Safety Council (NSC) has ducked the issue within their position paper, which is not terribly unlike NSC past performance on a host of other issues; over a very long period of time.

        • Dr says:

          Well Ron, I would love to believe that you have thoroughly researched this debacle. There is no need for you to pretend that our government will act responsibly and prevent the spread of this nonsense. Ridiculous pontificating by government agencies is no different than the hypocrisy taking place by our politicians and the media. In the end, perhaps you, your government agency, and our “esteemed” elected officials will do the wrong thing, all in the name of a vote , or the hoax of raising valuable tax dollars, which I’m sure will be squandered. In the end, your agency, and many others will protect the employee, at the expense of the employer, business, or corporation with hypocritical hyperbole. Perhaps, if government workers had the chance, or even the ability to actually run something real, they would see the difficulties business faces with increased government regulations, maybe they might even realize socialism, Marxism, oh wait, I apologize, let’s call it progressivism. Your credentials may be impressive, but perhaps you should use them to open a dialog and address the real concerns that business will have, instead of attempting to impress us with your titles, that in the real world, mean largely very little if you think impairment is the yardstick for acceptable employee behavior.

          • Frankly, Dr., I couldn’t care less what you believe. From my perspective, no one should have their livelihood (and the support of themselves or their family) put at risk simply because they ingested a little marijuana during a discrete period time during which they were not at work and were thus not putting themselves (nor any one else) at any risk of harm. And that injudicious end is precisely what the Nat’l Safety Council’s position paper appears to advocate.

            An employer has no reasonable business interjecting itself into the personal parameters of what any employee chooses to do on his or her own time, provided that such employee abides by the law and does not present his/herself at work while impaired.

            I’m not talking out of school here, Recent decisions handed down by at least one appeals court in New Jersey have held legitimate medical marijuana users cannot be discriminated against simply because a workplace drug test turns up positive for THC. Indeed, New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (N.J.S.A. 24:61-2 et seq.) is quite clear in that regard. Here’s a link:


            While I understand your position, it simply fails to consider the compassionate aspect of medical marijuana use, nor the privacy that should be reasonably accorded to all our country’s citizens in terms of what they legally do on their own time. Your opposition to that very basic liberty is in direct tension with your criticism of “Marxism”, “socialism”, “progressivism”, and is noteworthy.

            Also, your suggestion that I utilize my credentials in a manner that you feel appropriate is disturbing. Who are you to tell me how to use my own credentials? Moreover, despite your incredibly shallow allegation, I’m not trying to impress anybody with any title I may have earned. At my age, I have no need to impress anyone.

            Finally, anyone taking the time to read this string will plainly understand that you’re the type of perverse authoritarian who believes that they have a right to direct what everyone else in the world should be doing and how they should be doing it. The next logical step for your dictatorial pronouncements will likely be John & Jane Q. Public’s bedroom. If past is prologue, I’m sure you must have some guidance to offer there.

        • massvocals says:

          this is how a lair works , continue base logic on lies

          • Dr 2 says:

            marijuana is still Illegal in the US per the Federal Laws. so if random drug test show use, you can be let go from employment. its not discrimination when breaking the law.

  2. Mass says:

    First the facts please keep in mind the very PC / phone you may used by jobs who was a cannabis user , 2ed the test for testing delta 9 -THC the ingredient which give an effect of pleasure The test used by urine testing only test for THC -COOH this is a metabolite which is store in body for weeks this is element they used to test uses of cannabis , no matter how much THC -COOH is in body it can not be used to measure impairment , ANYONE who allows the zealots prohibitionist to test for cannabis by drug test for work or driving are insane The effected have a mala prohibita disease as they want laws that are not base in science , MassVocals

  3. massvocals says:

    the test used is fraudlent test and does not test for delta 9 THC but test for THC Cooh which at any level does not test impairment EVER

  4. Dr says:

    I can’t hardly wait for my heart surgeon, airline pilot, school bus driver, or any other worker to use the “I haven’t used it before work!” excuse, followed by “contact my attorney and my labor rep.” We are putting law enforcement in a very bad position, but of course, who thought that through,,,where is the science,,,,oh wait, it doesn’t exist yet, but then again, why would we want to use that? If it’s a medical device, show me the FDA approval like all pharmaceuticals must pass before being approved. If it’s for recreation, where are the common sense rules and standardizations necessary for its proper use to be enforced? As a medical practitioner, I know precisely what I will be seeing in the next decade,,,,the cigarette smoke crisis all over again. 50 years later, and we haven’t learned a thing, let the politicians and the brain trust media convince us that putting something besides air in our lungs is ok. Then we can have government officials protect these employees with lawyers and worse yet, another governor from Goldman Sachs,,,remember the last one that couldn’t find a billion dollars? No shortage of stupid,,,,actually, more like an epidemic of stupid in this state, and so many others. We are doomed.