EHS Management, Health and Wellness

Marijuana and Workplace Safety and Wellness: What You Need to Know

Thirty states have now legalized marijuana use for medicinal purposes, while recreational marijuana is legal in nine states and Washington, D.C. And as many states across the country become more lenient with their marijuana laws and regulations, organizations should seek out everything there is to know about marijuana and workplace safety and wellness.


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Understand Laws Around Recreational and Medical Marijuana Use

While it isn’t technically illegal in some states to use marijuana (note that this does not include federal laws and regulations), it most certainly isn’t acceptable for employees to show up to work under the influence, unless there is a well-documented and preapproved medical reason on file.

Just as you wouldn’t permit employees to show up to work under the influence of alcohol or drink alcohol while they’re at work, you shouldn’t permit employees to show up to work while they’re under the influence of marijuana or to smoke marijuana while they’re at work.

And you wouldn’t permit this because it will impair their abilities to operate machines (putting themselves and everyone around them at risk) and complete their everyday work tasks.

If some employees rely on marijuana for medical reasons, be sure to establish limitations with them on a case-by-case basis or outline them in your organization’s established policies.

Here is more detailed information regarding what is required of you by law and what is not regarding marijuana in the workplace; keep in mind that this can potentially vary from state to state and that laws and regulations are currently being updated on a somewhat regular basis.

Develop Policies and Distribute Information About Applicable Resources

To ensure safety and wellness across your organization, develop policies that outline limitations around marijuana use in the workplace and what is and is not acceptable. Also include in your policies what will happen if someone is found using marijuana on your premises and what courses of action will be taken. And include your organization’s policy on drug tests and when and where they will be administered.

In addition, even though most health insurance companies won’t offer coverage for medical marijuana prescriptions due to its being classified as a Schedule One Substance under the Controlled Substances Act, they will offer coverage for legal alternatives to medical marijuana. If your organization’s healthcare affiliate will cover such alternatives, be sure to notify your employees of all their options.

Be Aware of Signs of a Serious Problem

Always be aware of when an employee has a serious problem with marijuana use and when intervention or rehabilitation might be needed. Just as you would want to help or offer services to employees who suffer from alcoholism or opioid addiction, you will want to help employees who are indicating signs of serious problems with marijuana.

Short-term psychoactive effects of cannabis or marijuana include feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and sociability. Short-term physical effects and cognitive effects include a mild increase in heart rate and blood pressure, as well as some impairment in concentration, short-term memory, and certain psychomotor skills (primarily decision time and trajectory).

Additional physiological effects include dry mouth, reddening of the eyes, and increased appetite. And long-term effects of chronic marijuana use include grouchiness, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, and cravings.

As you develop your policies and programs, be sure to consider all marijuana wellness and workplace safety issues addressed above.

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