The growing strains from marijuana use in the workplace are stirring the pot for HR pros.
And all puns aside, it’s very serious business — and very confusing, too.
For instance, the CDC says 9.4% of the U.S. population used an illicit drug last month, and by far the most popular drug was marijuana. Except in many places, pot is no longer “illicit.” So even the CDC still needs to make that adjustment.
Weed at work goes well beyond just a safety issue, and HR practitioners are wise to keep ahead.
Here are 4 myths about weed at work tripping up HR pros, and some suggestions for handling it legally.
4 myths about weed at work
Myth #1 from Eldeen Pozniak, Director, Pozniak Safety Associates:
The biggest myth is that marijuana changes things in the workplace. We’ve always had the responsibility that employees be fit for safe duty, even before the new marijuana laws.
The key to protecting your organization is to set a standard. Review the laws in the states where you do business to understans what’s legal, and what’s not. Then set standards for possession of marijuana, and impairment, especially if it’s no longer considered an illegal drug in your state.
“With a clearly written policy outlining expectations and consequences, you’ll have the right to terminate an employee for violations. Just be sure to include it in your handbook and enforce it consistently,” says Karyn Rhodes, VP/Director at Complete Payroll Solutions.
Myth #2 from Stephanie Hopper, CEO, KSF Consulting:
The biggest myth is who is a marijuana user. Everyone is a potential marijuana user. It’s not just “stoners.”
Since anyone might test positive, the patchwork of laws surrounding pot makes it trickier to establish drug-testing criteria that passes legal muster.
But don’t do away with testing. Workers are less likely to use drugs if they know they’ll be tested. Instead, stick to regular screenings, especially in workplaces where safety is essential. Just be aware that the tests can have false results and they don’t necessarily reveal a worker’s level of impairment. And be prepared with what to do for positive results from prescribed medical marijuana use, too.
Myth #3 from Adele Abrams, Attorney & Certified Safety Pro:
The biggest myth is people think because it’s illegal at the federal level, they can hire and fire marijuana users with impunity. New states laws are changing that.
With the rapid pace of change in marijuana legislation, it pays to keep managers up to date about legal developments regarding pot at work. Training should include how employees may be using marijuana today (e.g. ingesting edibles at lunch), the effects on job performance, and how to spot signs of abuse that may prompt for-cause testing such as red eyes, slurred speech, impaired motor coordination and other behaviors.
Myth #4 from Marcos Iglesias, Chief Medical Officer, Broadspire:
There’s been an artificial distinction between medical and recreational marijuana. Medical has come to mean respectable.
Most state laws protect employers when medical marijuana-using employees test positive. But depending on where your company operates, there may be laws in effect to protect employees by prohibiting disciplinary action for medical marijuana use or requiring that you provide workplace accommodations. Be sure to check local legislation and have an attorney review your policies for compliance. And remember that just because an employee holds a medical marijuana card, it doesn’t give them authorization to use the drug on the job.
Lastly, always consider providing support. A formal or informal support for employees who may have abuse issues is a great first step, such as an Employee Assistance Program with a list of local resources available to help employees with drug problems.