Is Marijuana Use Becoming “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”?

by CRS | Feb 1, 2017

How to navigate this gray zone.

CRS and the Marijuana IndustryHaving a strong, robust, and relevant employee and safety manual is the dream (and sometimes reality) of every business owner. The benefits are endless. Utilizing Human Resource (HR) practices can save a company from costly unemployment claims, costly Worker’s Compensation claims, and even mitigate Employment Practices Liability (sexual harassment, racial discrimination, wrongful termination, etc) situations. A Drug and Alcohol policy is merely one piece of what a business needs to implement, and until recently, it was a pretty simple one to contemplate.

But then, everything had to change. Since 1996, 28 states have approved Medical Marijuana and 8 states have approved Recreational Marijuana laws. Suddenly, marijuana is in a similar boat as alcohol. Alcohol usage as it pertains to employment, is typically pretty simple: an employee comes to work under the influence of alcohol and the company’s Drug and Alcohol policy would be triggered. Depending upon the policy, perhaps the employee would be terminated. Alcohol is pretty easy to test for and more importantly, it is easy to determine if it is active in the bloodstream and actively impairing a person’s ability to do their job and be safe.

Testing for marijuana on the other hand is completely different. Drug tests for marijuana will come back positive when it is no longer active in person’s system and depending upon usage, it could leave traces for upwards of 30 days. Suddenly, the intent of a company’s random drug testing policy comes with the consequence of knowing what your employees have done days or possibly weeks before. Is what your employee does on the weekend relevant to what they do at work during the week? Can a company still have a hard stance when it comes to marijuana use when they may be forced to part with some key employees? Does their Alcohol and Drug Policy need to change, and if so, how? If the policy doesn’t change and you don’t follow your policy every time, do your HR practices lose all credibility?

It is a fascinating dilemma that every company should prioritize to address. Remember, every company should desire a strong, robust, and relevant employee and safety manual? So where is that line in the sand drawn? Living in Colorado and seeing the change over the last couple of years, it is apparent that opinions on marijuana have not changed just because the opinion of the state has changed. If you weren’t inclined to use marijuana before, then you still aren’t today and vice versa.

What changes have you and your company considered? What changes are you willing to make? What help are you receiving as you craft our employee and safety manuals and if you’re not receiving any help, is that perhaps, the real HR/management quandary?