For some situations, like office work, the primary safety hazard might be a paper cut.  In industrial professions, employee safety is at risk every day.  Because of legalization of marijuana, industrial accidents could occur more often because marijuana can impair an employee’s coordination and motor skills.

Where is Marijuana Legal Right Now

Despite many states legalizing cannabis in the United States, marijuana remains an illegal drug according to the federal government.  The government classifies cannabis or marijuana as a Schedule I drug.  Schedule I drugs, under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), are those drugs that possess a high potential for abuse and for which there is no currently accepted medical use. The DEA reviewed its classification of marijuana in 2016, and affirmatively chose to keep marijuana on the list Schedule I drugs.

A nice map from DISA Global Solutions shows the marijuana legality by state with links to the state law.

Map of Marijuana by State

Map of Marijuana by State

How is Marijuana Use Impacting Safety on the Job?

People try marijuana to get “high.”  The psychoactive ingredient,  tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in marijuana stimulates the brain to produce dopamine which relaxes the body.  According to an article by WebMD, How Marijuana Affects Your Mind and Body, affects sensory perception (brighter colors, louder sounds), reaction time, motor skills, and increase risky behavior.  For an employee working in an industrial environment, operating machinery, or driving industrial equipment, these effects can be deadly.

According to a study, How does marijuana use affect school, work, and social life?, by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 55 percent more workplace accidents, 85 percent more injuries at work, and 75 percent more absenteeism when an employee tested positive for cannabis.

The Employer Usually Wins a Lawsuit

As a result of cannabis use, an employee’s job is terminated.  When this happens states typically side with the employer even if the employee has a medical marijuana card.  However, marijuana is still Schedule I drug which is illegal according to federal law. Federal law supersedes state law.

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act sides with the employer when it comes to medical marijuana use
  • If an industrial accident occurs and a worker is injured, worker compensation is not provided if an employee was under the influence
  • Most health insurance programs do not cover medical cannabis as part of their list of prescription drugs

What Makes a Good Drug Policy?

An interesting study on the impact of Drug-Testing programs by the National Center of Biotechnology Information (NCBI) shows the effective use of pre-employment drug testing concludes it is useful to employers choosing job applicants.  An employer drug policy should include:

  • Management training to ensure enforcement the drug policy
  • Employee support options including company assistance or local resources
  • Clearly defined use and possession guidelines
  • Criteria for post-accident analysis
  • Rules employee’s conviction or arrest for drugs

Legal authorities review drug policies and workplace procedures to ensure reduction of litigation by employee.  Policies may change based on state or even federal law and could change frequently.  The drug policy should have a date and acknowledgment by the employee.  By having this information, litigation against the employer is protected.


Cannabis picture by pixabay

The health and safety of your workforce depend upon you to keep them safe.

Linda Rawson, is the Founder of DynaGrace Enterprises, inventor of WeatherEgg, and the author of The Minority and Women-Owned Small Business Guide to Government Contracts: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started

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