Weed In The Workplace

By Stefano Tromba
April 19, 2019

The case for legalizing recreational marijuana is gaining momentum all across the country. Enticed by the financial upside it provides, this past year, city and state officials from New York have taken steps toward possible legalization. Furthermore, with Democrats now in control of both houses of the New York State Legislature, marijuana legalization is very likely to become a reality in 2019.

So how will this affect the workplace? Will staff now be able to take a puff during a lunch break? Will an employee receiving a disability accommodation be able to consume medically prescribed hash?

HR managers will need to proactively address this issue by updating company policy to ensure that marijuana legalization (if and when it happens) does not give employees the right to be impaired at work or entitle them to “light up” any time or anywhere they choose.

THE 411 ON 420

A study focused entirely on Colorado – which legalized marijuana back in 2012 showed that reported use of the drug was highest among those between the ages of 18 to 25, and was prevalent in more men than women. While not an indicator of how the rest of the country uses the green leaf, the study showed that 30% of those who took part, worked in the food industry. Not surprisingly, far less usage was shown in industries that typically drug test employees, like health care and transportation.

With this data in mind, employers must make it a point to have employees understand changes in your workplace policy when it comes to cannabis use (just as they would any company policy) to avoid any miscommunication. Similar to alcohol, or any other controlled substance, companies should offer training to make certain workers clearly understand what they can and cannot do in the workplace.


The cannabis industry is a booming one and has evolved far beyond the thinly rolled funny smelling cigarettes we saw growing up. However, today cannabis enthusiasts are using it in a variety of different items that include oils, creams and of course, brownies. In fact, the pot industry raked in nearly 9 billion in sales in the United States in 2017 alone – equivalent to the entire snack bar industry.

In other parts of the world, marijuana is slowly gaining momentum in its march toward legalization. Canada, who legalized it last year, is only the second country in the world (and the first of the G7 nations to welcome the substance into the mainstream market. Our neighbors to the north expect over 4 billion in sales as a result. In late 2013, the first country to legalize production, sale, and consumption of marijuana was Uruguay.

To date, nine U.S. states and the District of Columbia, allow recreational marijuana use, whereas medically its legal in 30, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Guam and Puerto Rico have also approved a comprehensive public medical marijuana/cannabis programs.

But with legalization comes new laws to keep it from getting into the hands of minors and guideline businesses need to enforce. Today’s workplace needs to ensure a clear understanding of company policy regarding marijuana and other related substances.

So how can employers know if someone is under the influence and if it’s impairing their on-the-job abilities? Well, employers will just have to start being more mindful of changes in employee performance. Employers have to address this, in the same way, the rest of the world is and it’s not by not using outdated drug and alcohol policies.

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