Article contributed by:
President & Founder, MBI Worldwide, Inc.
Four states in this country, and the District of Columbia, allow the recreational use of marijuana. On July 1, Oregon joined Alaska, Washington and Colorado in legalizing the drug for people over the age of 21. Many other states allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Either circumstance raises questions for employers and their employees. Here are some of the things you need to know.
- Use of marijuana is on the rise. Since it is legal in four states and prescribed as medicine in 20 others, more people are using the drug. After Washington state and Colorado legalized the recreational use of pot in 2012, about 2.4 million people tried it for the first time that year. The numbers are only expected to increase.
- While it may be beneficial for some medical conditions, marijuana is not good for the workplace. Marijuana affects users differently, but common side effects include the inability to concentrate, a delay in decision-making, paranoia and drowsiness. Depending on the job, even one of these effects can have a huge impact on the safety of the employees working with the user.
- Using the drug also impacts the health of the user. Besides the conditions listed above, marijuana smoke irritates the lungs, which can lead to breathing problems. It can also impact a user’s heart, mind and other vital organs. In some cases, marijuana use has led to the development of cancer.
- Marijuana is a gateway drug. We all learned that in junior high school. There are concerns once a person starts smoking pot; it leads to abusing other drugs. A new study has found young men who use marijuana have been found to be 25 percent more likely to abuse prescription drugs. Researchers at Yale University couldn’t explain why, but believe it may be due to chemical changes in the brain that make other drugs more appealing.
- The drug is more potent today than it was 40 years ago. Marijuana contains THC. That’s the main psychoactive component in the drug. The levels were only two or three percent in the 1960’s and 70’s. Today those levels are at 10 percent, and in some cases as high as 37 percent. That makes it more addictive to the people who use it.
Even though marijuana may be legal in some states, employers can and should draft polices about use of marijuana in the workplace. An employer would never allow an employee to come to work drunk or high on cocaine, the same rules can apply for using marijuana. Many employers are cracking down on tobacco use among employees, so it’s very unlikely that marijuana use will become an accepted practice.
#StaySharpHR and make sure that your company has compliant policies and procedures lined out about drug testing for marijuana in your workplace.