Cannabis, is it legal or illegal?

Posted by Christy Putnam on May 7, 2019 at 10:03 AM

building a drug alcohol and substance policyIs cannabis (a.k.a. marijuana)* legal or illegal?

The answer is yes.

At present, cannabis is legal for medical use in 34 states and the District of Columbia. In 10 states and the District of Columbia, it is legal for recreational use. And yet it is illegal everywhere and for all purposes as far as the federal government is concerned. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continues to categorize it as a Schedule 1 drug, which means that it is perceived as having high potential for abuse. Furthermore, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ascribed no accepted medical use to it, is not proceeding with any clinical trials, and offers no oversight for it.

Yet while governments may be confused, there's no need for your workplace to give your employees mixed messages.

There is no requirement for most private employers to have a drug-free workplace policy of any kind. Yet in light of the constantly shifting perceptions of cannabis and other substances, now might be a good time to review and update your company’s procedures. It is, after all, important to provide a safe and healthy work environment for all employees, regardless of any legal ambiguity. To accomplish this goal, some key elements to consider including in a drug and alcohol policy are as follows:

  • Acceptable and unacceptable presence and use of substances in the workplace
  • Consequences of policy infractions
  • Alcohol at non-work company events
  • Required testing
  • Information on the availability of treatment and confidentiality
  • Handling of crimes involving drugs/alcohol

If your company has not updated its drug and alcohol testing procedures in several years, now might be a good time to take a look at these processes as well. Some things to consider here are:

  • Clearly define what it means to refuse to test and what actions will be taken if this happens.
  • If testing includes prescription drugs, be sure to consider the effects of employment decisions.
  • Post-accident tests should be clearly defined, communicated, and performed consistently.
  • Make sure your policy adheres to all federal, state, and local laws.

Also, remember that your policy needs to be broad enough to address substances generally; not just those in the news. Yes, cannabis use has been linked to increased employer costs due to accidents, injuries, mistakes, and absenteeism. Yet some staggering statistics about alcohol are provided by the National Safety Council. One in 13 working adults has an alcohol use disorder. Additionally, 13% of men and 5% of women report binge drinking at least once a week. Employees with an alcohol use disorder miss on average 34% more days than other workers and are more likely to experience a workplace injury. So make your policy comprehensive.

If you could use some additional guidance and tips for crafting a drug and alcohol policy that best fits your organization, and to find out more about potential ADA issues, please attend our May HR webinar.

Please join us for our complementary webinar Wednesday, May 22nd at 11:00am PDT

Marijuana & Other Substances in the Workplace

Register Now!

When registering for this webinars, please ensure that you put
"Bennett/Porter & Associates" in the 'referred by' registration field.

*Cannabis is the official plant name that we will reference in our blogs and posts regarding the May HR topic, with the exception of the webinar title. Although the word 'marijuana' is familiar and originates in the early 1900s, it comes with some negative connotations.

Topics: Human Resources, HR Policies

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