Questions every employer should consider:
1) If you own a business, and employees smoke marijuana off-site, will those employees be under the influence of an intoxicating drug while on the job?
2) Can employees be under the influence of a recreational drug at work?
3) Must employers pay for “medical” marijuana for on-the-job injuries?
4) Must an employer pay unemployment insurance for employees with a marijuana positive drug test?
In the era of marijuana glamorization, legalization and commercialization, employers have a major threat coming to them and most of them don’t know it yet. Here’s a quote from the attorney hired by marijuana industry interests in Colorado after Amendment 64 passed in a highly funded ballot question in 2012 legalized and commercialized marijuana: “Every existing Colorado law that is not compliant with Amendment 64 should be changed . . . because an employee’s Constitutional Right to use marijuana supersedes an employer’s right to drug test.“– Kimberlie Ryan, Atty
Yet in 2014 the Denver Post Business section reported that Colorado employers were increasing testing for drug use after Amendment 64 passed. Advocates for legal marijuana say it should be treated the same as alcohol, with no workplace sanction if employees consume it off the job. But alcohol is metabolized relatively quickly and is not present in the body 12-24 hours after consumption. THC and other chemicals in marijuana can be detected in the body for as long as 3 to 90 days after smoking or being ingested orally. The science is not yet clear on just exactly how impaired a worker is in the hours and days after getting high. However, National Highway Transporation Safety Administration research shows that:
In long term users, even after periods of abstinence, selective attention (ability to filter out irrelevant information) has been shown to be adversely affected with increasing duration of use, and speed of information processing has been shown to be impaired with increasing frequency of use.
“But several Colorado employers are now reported to be actively looking outside the state for employees, and a company reported relocating outside Colorado after workforce pot use increased and skill and work quality deteriorated after marijuana was legalized and commercialized in Colorado.
“Drug use a problem for employers”, Clearing the Haze, The Gazette, Colorado Springs, CO
“I’ll get straight to the bottom line,” said Rick Reubelt, Haselden Construction’s director of environmental health and safety. “If you’re in the construction industry, marijuana use is not acceptable at any time, under any circumstance or condition.”
“He couldn’t have said it better,” said Jim Johnson, GE Johnson’s chief executive officer. “We endorse that stance, and this is one thing we absolutely unite on.”
Company hires out of state:
Johnson said his company has encountered so many job candidates who have failed pre-employment drug tests because of their THC use that it is actively recruiting construction workers from other states.
“Colorado company says pot pushed them out of state, Colorado 9NEWS 4/23/15
“DENVER – Little Spider Creations had been making scary creations in Denver for 24 years, but the owner of the company says legalizing recreational marijuana changed everything. He recently moved his company to North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Marc Brawner, the owner, says too many employees were coming in high after the drug was legalized for recreational use in 2012…”
According to the Drugs and Human Performance Fact Sheets from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, side effects and duration of effects from cannabis use include:
Side Effect Profile: Fatigue, paranoia, possible psychosis, memory problems, depersonalization, mood alterations, urinary retention, constipation, decreased motor coordination, lethargy, slurred speech, and dizziness. Impaired health including lung damage, behavioral changes, and reproductive, cardiovascular and immunological effects have been associated with regular marijuana use. Regular and chronic marijuana smokers may have many of the same respiratory problems that tobacco smokers have (daily cough and phlegm, symptoms of chronic bronchitis), as the amount of tar inhaled and the level of carbon monoxide absorbed by marijuana smokers is 3 to 5 times greater than among tobacco smokers. Smoking marijuana while shooting up cocaine has the potential to cause severe increases in heart rate and blood pressure.
Duration of Effects: Effects from smoking cannabis products are felt within minutes and reach their peak in 10-30 minutes. Typical marijuana smokers experience a high that lasts approximately 2 hours. [New marijuana edibles take much longer to be absorbed into the system. Highly concentrated THC effects are unpredictable and overdosing is more likely.] Most behavioral and physiological effects return to baseline levels within 3-5 hours after drug use, although some investigators have demonstrated residual effects in specific behaviors up to 24 hours, such as complex divided attention tasks.
Psychomotor impairment can persist after the perceived high has dissipated. In long term users, even after periods of abstinence, selective attention (ability to filter out irrelevant information) has been shown to be adversely affected with increasing duration of use, and speed of information processing has been shown to be impaired with increasing frequency of use.
With escalating THC concentrations in new marijuana products in commercialized markets, side effects and duration of effects need more research to assess work performance impacts.
Should employers be required to retain and pay for employees who choose to use cannabis?
That’s a risk they run if the marijuana industry gains a commercial and legal foothold in their area of business.