Navigating Marijuana Policies in the Workplace

Navigating Marijuana Policies in the Workplace

As medical and recreational marijuana gain legal ground in more states, employers are taking a fresh look at their nationwide drug and alcohol policies. Yet, despite shifts in state-level regulations, marijuana retains its federal Schedule I classification. This introduces safety concerns for employers, as employees using marijuana could potentially arrive at work impaired, posing risks to their safety and that of their colleagues.

Before this recent wave of marijuana legalization, employers had the legal right to conduct drug screenings and terminate employees for off-duty drug use. However, the legal landscape is evolving. For instance, California's AB 2188, effective as of January of this year, prohibits employers from firing workers for off-duty marijuana use that doesn't affect their job performance. (1)

Even as employers reconsider pre-employment screenings, the need to maintain a safe workplace remains paramount.

One approach employers can take involves providing employees with training on recognizing signs of marijuana impairment. Referred to as reasonable suspicion training (find easy-to-use and cost effective virtual training here), these sessions equip managers to identify, document, and address situations where they suspect an employee may be impaired by marijuana during work hours, posing risks to themselves and others.

Technologies such as breathalyzers and oral fluid tests can also be recommended, along with a drug testing protocol which is clearly delineated to staff.

Jaime Feinberg, president of partnerships for insurance, risk, and safety with Hound Labs, whose company has pioneered a marijuana breathalyzer, emphasized the importance of timing: "What truly matters is when these tests are conducted, not whether they are utilized. Ensure that policies are established, clearly stating, 'No cannabis use during work hours.' Implement technology and testing policies that focus on recent use within a three-hour timeframe." (2)

As the workplace continues to adapt to changing state legislation, staying informed about these shifts in policies and technologies becomes essential for employers navigating the intersection of marijuana and the modern workplace.

  1. Sources:
  2. Bill Text - AB-2188 Discrimination in employment: use of cannabis. (n.d.).
  3. DuChene, C. (2023, September 25). How to keep your workplace safe in the age of Legal Cannabis. Risk & Insurance.