Marijuana in the Workplace?

Marijuana in the workplace can send employers in circles. Marijuana has two groups: medical marijuana and recreational marijuana. Both are illegal for federal purposes, but many states have decriminalized one or both.

Marijuana is much like alcohol. If it is legal in your state, people can use it on their own time, as long as it doesn't affect workplace performance. Like alcohol, the problem is that the effects last for 48 hours, and the drug is still found in the bloodstream up to 5 days later. So it is difficult, if not possible, to use the drug and remain "clean" for a drug-test.

The laws protect employers, because they can continue to have a Drug-Free policy and can discipline any worker who is impaired or possesses (medical or recreational) marijuana at work.

Protection for employees is a bit more confusing. Employers do not have to make ADA (American Disabilities Act) accommodations for people using medical marijuana. However, medical marijuana is covered under HIPAA laws, and it is not legal for employers to ask employees (or potential employees) about their medical situation. Recreational marijuana is like smoking: Employers cannot ask applicants or employees if they smoke. They CAN have a no-smoking policy.

So,the bottom line is that employers have control over actions that affect the workplace.

All employers should have a workplace drug policy, distribute it to all employees, and consistently enforce it. Specifically, your drug policy should include any drug, legal or otherwise, that affects the workplace.

  • Sample Drug and Alcohol Policy from the Association of Corp. Counsel

    What are the Signs of Marijuana Use?
    • Bloodshot eyes
    • Fast heart rate
    • Sleepy, lethargic
    • Lack of coordination
    • Increase cravings for snacks
    • Confusion and lack of focus
    • Unusually talkative
    • Dropping studies or usual activities
    • Misjudging time
    • Secretiveness

    State-by-state information on the legality of Marijuana