Marijuana legalization is not a new idea. For the past two decades, states have been chiseling away at pot reform in the United States, first passing voter initiatives to legalize for medicinal use and then finally, just about five years ago, pulling the trigger on the recreational front. Now, well over half the country has legalized the leaf in some form or fashion. Sure, some of these laws are as good as a three-legged horse and in desperate need of being put down. But no matter how flimsy they might be, it still proves the nation is perfectly capable of rising above the drug war mentality.
However, the business world is still struggling to come to terms with the concept of treating weed like beer. It’s a complicated matter for most, one that, quite honestly, probably has the majority sweeping it under the rug. In fact, according to a new survey from Paychex, most American companies are not at all prepared to handle the legalization of medical or recreational marijuana. The issue simply holds too many unanswered questions. Do we fire workers automatically for testing positive for marijuana; do we test them at all; do we let medical marijuana cardholders slide; do we enforce a zero-tolerance policy; do we just go to lunch and figure it out later?
They have no clue.
Unfortunately, this means, in spite of the legalization efforts unfolding at the state level, American workers are going to find it hard to enjoy legal weed without the fear of it coming back to take a giant bite out of their rear ends. As if they needed any more paranoia in their life, am I right?
The poll, which was published late last month, finds that only 42 percent of companies are «very prepared» to deal with their employees’ medical marijuana use. Another 24 percent said they were «somewhat prepared,» while 34 percent admitted they were «not prepared» at all.
When it comes to recreational marijuana, only 39 percent of employers say they are on the ball with respect to full-blown legalization. Almost equally matched; however, 38 percent confessed to being entirely in the dark on how to manage workers and weed. It stands to reason that these companies will probably continue with what works for them – getting rid of any worker who tests positive for THC. They will surely hold on as long as they possibly can before making a change for the better.
Of course, some business sectors are more pot progressive than others.
The best-case scenario for the average marijuana user, or so the survey SAYS, is if they have a professional career.
Seventy percent of these businesses were receptive to their personnel using medical marijuana, but only around 58 percent were okay with that use crossing the line to recreational. Presumably, these kinds of companies (law firms, advertising agencies, etc.) are not all that concerned about the potential of marijuana use in the workplace because there isn’t much death and destruction that can come by turning stoned employees loose on office equipment. Ba Dum Tss!
Interestingly, the manufacturing and retail sectors were next in line when it comes to readiness for pro-pot laws. Sixty-four percent in both segments say they are prepared for legal weed. And by prepared, they surely mean they have put in more vending machines and made sure there are plenty of Little Debbies.
Marijuana in the workplace is a hot issue, for sure. However, business experts say, depending on the work environment, the idea of allowing workers to use marijuana on their personal time is not cut and dry.
«Marijuana legalization for medical or recreational use introduces new complexities for businesses to navigate when it comes to workplace drug enforcement policies,» said Martin Mucci, Paychex president and CEO. «While marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, the legislation in each jurisdiction varies and may require business owners, especially those operating in multiple states, to comply in different capacities. Developing appropriate policies for industries with employees operating heavy machinery, for example, may present unique challenges.»
Most of the concerns over marijuana in the workplace stem from a conflict between state and federal law. Even in jurisdictions where pre-employment drug tests for marijuana have been eliminated – New York City and Nevada — the Drug-Free Workplace policies passed in the 1980s during the Reagan Administration are still causing trouble. Police officers, nurses, heavy machinery operators and employees with any company holding a federal contract must pee in a cup before they can go to work.
Even in those places where a pre-employment whiz-quiz is no longer necessary, employees can still be terminated for testing positive for marijuana — even if they are not impaired at the time. Employers can learn of a worker’s pot use through random drug testing (which companies have the right to do) and if incidents occur. Hit someone or something with a fork truck and part of the protocol is to give that worker a drug test. Get injured on the job and try claiming Worker’s Compensation and a drug test usually comes up. If you use marijuana and hold any other position outside of fast food and the hospitality trade, rest assured your company will find a way to nail you for weed.
But there have been some improvements.
Companies are starting to get serious about adjusting their marijuana policies, mostly because they are worried about infringing on worker’s rights. Especially now that an Arizona court has determined that a Walmart worker was discriminated against after she was terminated for testing positive for marijuana. The court found that Walmart’s pink slip tactics were unjust because the company could not prove the employee was impaired on the job.
It’s a good thing drug policies are starting to change. If not, we’d be seeing a whole heck of a lot of stoners standing in the unemployment line. Why? Because workers are testing positive for marijuana in the workplace now more than ever before, according to a recent studyfrom Quest Diagnostics.
This research shows there has been a 10 percent increase in positive screens for marijuana on the job over the past year. It’s a trend that doesn’t shock Dr. Barry Sample, Quest’s senior director for science and technology.
«Marijuana use is on the rise in society, so it’s not surprising that we’re starting to see that filter into the workplace,» he said.
Although more companies are starting to take a less restrictive stance on marijuana use, the progress is still slow. Most legal states have only experienced around a 10 percent decrease in companies testing for pot. We can only hope that more business sectors start to relax their drug policies as more states move to legalize. But it won’t be until the federal government changes its stance on the cannabis plant that we start to see significant improvements on this issue.
When will that happen?
It probably won’t be until 2021 before the nationwide legalization issue picks up speed. Right now, there is too much old Republican domination on Capitol Hill, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn’t given any indication that he’s changed his mind about weed. It really comes down to how the 2020 election shakes out. If Democrats take control of the Senate and push McConnell out of the top seat, we’ve got a fighting chance at finally getting something done in Congress. Never mind all of the marijuana legalization measures that have been introduced as of late, the odds of any of it getting pushed through this year are about as good as the legions of UFO enthusiasts preparing to storm the gates at Area 51 later this year have at making it out alive.