According to the FDA, marijuana is a controlled substance. Many federal and non-governmental agencies such as the DEA and workers’ compensation underwriters support consistent testing and the regulation of marijuana use in the workplace. With the expansion and legalization of medical marijuana and adult-use recreational marijuana, a major challenge that employers are facing is how to handle marijuana testing and use during work hours. Human Resource Professionals are encountering a subject that has not been thoroughly defined and requires an established set of guidelines. In the past, HR Professionals have been able to test job applicants and employees for the presence of marijuana. With federal and state laws changing, employers must adapt and determine realistic and appropriate policies within the workplace.

The question that many are asking is with the legalization of marijuana is, How will this impact safety in the workplace? Employers are required to provide employees with a safe workplace without compromising safety. Also, depending on the industry, some organizations must adhere to a no-tolerance policy due to federal regulations. Some studies have shown that marijuana use has increased accidents and injuries in the workplace. It is argued that the use of marijuana can cause impaired body movement, difficulty thinking and problem solving, tardiness, and an altered sense of time. Although, these are some of the concerns a large portion of the population believes that, in a controlled environment, the use of marijuana is acceptable.

Here are some guidelines that can help define the use of medical and recreational marijuana. Keep in mind that these guidelines are designed to have some degree of flexibility:

  • Specifically define what “marijuana,” “cannabis,” “medical marijuana,” “recreational use,” “after hours,” or any other term used in the policy
  • Specifically, define what it means to be “under the influence”
  • Define all procedures and penalties
  • Require employees to disclose if they want accommodation under the ADA
  • Educate employees on clinical issues relating to the nature of marijuana and its effects, and the laws affecting drug use and abuse
  • Include policy in recruiting materials and new hire onboarding

Small and large companies should remain informed on laws as medical and recreational marijuana use is being defined in the workplace. It is a good idea to consult your organization’s legal department to remain ahead of this topic and the proposed challenges. Finding the balance between accommodating the needs of your employees while respecting privacy and ensuring peak productivity can be difficult. Marijuana is becoming mainstream and can be managed once the proper policies have been established.


References: Green Entrepreneur, Financial Post, OHS Online, The Balance Careers