The Impact of Marijuana in the Workplace: A Guide for Employers

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Just this month, a joint report was published aimed to support employers in better understanding the implications of marijuana use on the workforce.

This study states the following: “[Marijuana] is, by a wide margin, the drug most often detected in workplace drug testing programs. With rapidly changing attitudes and laws regarding marijuana use, employers need to examine their current policies and be prepared for potential impacts on workforce as these trends continue.”

As more and more cities and states decriminalize and even legalize marijuana, employers require parameters and guidance with their employees in a number of areas such as:

  • consequences and side effects on the job
  • temporary impairment in the workplace
  • monitoring use among employees
  • risks and associated costs of adverse events related to marijuana use
  • loss of productivity
  • safety of workers and the general public

New Advice & Proposals

Employers are often put in a difficult position trying to accommodate both state laws that allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes as well as company drug-use policies.

This information offers practical steps that any employer can take to ensure their impairment and drug-testing policies are effective and that jobs are being performed safely.

The authors concluded the study with 8 recommendations for employers in developing policies regarding off-work use of marijuana.

The summary of these suggestions are:

  • For employees covered by federal drug testing regulations, marijuana use, both on or off the job, is prohibited.
  • Employees in safety-sensitive positions must not be impaired at work by any substance, whether it be illicit, legally prescribed or available over-the-counter. Employers may consider prohibiting on the job marijuana use for all employees in safety-sensitive positions, even when not covered by federal drug testing regulations.
  • Employers residing in or near states that allow the use of recreational marijuana must establish a policy regarding off-work use of marijuana.
  • In most states that allow the use of medical marijuana, employers may be able to continue policies banning the use of marijuana.
  • Most workers’ compensation statutes allow reduced benefits when a worker is under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs
  • All employers should have clear policies and procedures for supervisors to follow regarding the criteria for identifying potential impairment.
  • Employee education is vital to ensure compliance with company expectations.
  • In states where marijuana use is permitted, employers should provide educational resources regarding the detrimental effects of marijuana use, including caution regarding dose and delayed effects of edible products.
  • This Joint Task Force report was issued by two very reputable and credible sources, namely The American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN) and the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

The primary point of this study is to stress that “the safety of both workers and the public must be the main focus to all workplace policies.”

Above all else, the changing environment surrounding marijuana use requires constant communication between all parties including health professionals and legal experts.


Audrey Beim holds two advanced degrees from major universities, including a Master’s Degree in Psychology. She has over 20 years of experience in the health, wellness, nutritional and fitness categories and has used her expertise to write articles for media outlets such as Linfield Media and Examiner.com.

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