Thinking About Dropping Marijuana when Testing your Employees?
Written by Lucas Kibby, CleanFleet
As of November 9, 2016, the use of both recreational and medicinal marijuana has been legalized in the states of Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. The District of Columbia has fully legalized recreational and medical marijuana, but recreational commercial sale is currently blocked by Congress.
With the latest states legalizing recreational marijuana, your company is now thinking about dropping marijuana from your drug testing program or even dropping drug testing altogether. Before you move forward with this, here are some things you might want to consider first.
Marijuana is still a Schedule 1 Drug Federally
Due to marijuana being a Schedule 1 drug, many federally regulated employees within companies must test for marijuana and hold those who test positive accountable under federal mandates. These workers include commercial truck drivers, air line pilots and flight attendants, railroad engineers and conductors, workers in nuclear power plants, and many others in safety-sensitive positions.
Many other employers use federal funds for a wide variety of projects that require compliance with the drug-free workplace act. OSHA regulations and their state counterparts require employers to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards in what is commonly referred to as the general duty clause. Workplace drug testing policies support essential workplace safety and productivity standards for employers as well as employees.
If you are a subcontract you are already aware that many and most general contractors require that you have in place a drug testing program that follows the federal standards and that includes testing for marijuana.
But I am not federally mandated to require drug testing
Many non-federally regulated employers understand drug and alcohol testing to be an important part of their business. However, beyond pre-employment and post-incident testing, random drug testing is dismissed for a number of reasons.
Why is this? Naturally, if employees appear productive and cooperative, it would seem that there is little reason to test them for drugs and alcohol.
Unfortunately, over 50% of alcohol abusers could be described as high-functioning and many users of controlled substances never manifest empirical signs of intoxication that could warrant the reasonable suspicion of a supervisor or family member… until an incident occurs.
Marijuana is the most abused drug in the workplace, and with that come many issues. Can your company afford the costs of substance abusers?
- 65% of accidents on the job are related to misuse of drugs/alcohol
- Substance abusers responsible for 40% of all industrial fatalities
- SHA reports that 10-20% of nation's workers who die at work also test positive for drugs/alcohol
- Substance abusers are 3.5x more likely to be involved in accidents on the job and 5x more likely to hurt themselves at work
- Substance abusers are 33% less productive than their peers.
- Substance abusers double cost of worker comp claims for employers
- Drug abusers use up twice as many medical benefits as their coworkers
Does a drug testing program actually benefit my company?
So what happens to many companies to implement drug testing? What could you be losing if you drop marijuana or all drug testing from your company policies?
- Drug testing can reduce insurance claims by 12%, first aid injury reports by 18%, accidents by 51%
- SHRM poll show those with high rate of workers’ comp incidences saw 50% decrease in claims after implementing testing
- According to SHRM poll, 19% of organizations experienced an uptick in worker productivity after testing, and a 16% decrease in employee turnover rates
- For organizations with absenteeism rates greater than 15%, implementing drug testing reduced absenteeism by about 50% overall
The effects of marijuana are real and American researchers by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine finished a comprehensive review, for the first time in decades, of 10,000 studies conducted since 1999 of marijuana research. There are nearly 100 conclusions reached by this massive report that includes definitions of weights of evidence and direction for future studies.
According to the report, cannabis has legitimate medicinal benefits for a variety of ailments, but also has been shown as a contributor to certain mental health issues, has a role as a gateway drug to some degree, and, now common knowledge, has substantive evidence of a statistical association between cannabis use and increased risk of motor vehicle crashes. To read the details, click here.
Some industries have more substance abuse than others
- Accommodations and Food Services
- According to the Department of Health and Human Services, workers in the Food and Beverage industry have the highest rates of drug use. At a rate of 17.4% overall of restaurant workers using illegal drugs, the jobs of food preparation (cooks and prep cooks), serving (waiting tables), and bartending, use illegal drugs at twice the national average.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a total of 4,609 fatal occupational injuries by major event in 2011, with the manufacturing sector listed as one of the most dangerous.
- According to AON, 40% of construction fatalities involve substance abuse and 71% of union members are in favor of drug testing.
- Health Care and Social Assistance
- The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists reported that the addiction rate among anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists exceeded 15%. Approximately 12-15% of all physicians and nurses will experience substance abuse issues at some point during their career.
- Wholesale Trade
- The wholesale trade industry has a higher percentage of drug and alcohol abusers that all industry averages and are more likely to conduct pre-employment and random drug tests compared to all industry averages.
What alternative is there than dropping marijuana or drug testing all together?
The simplest answer is be specific. Be specific on who you will drug test and when. Your company could also remove immediately firing someone due to a positive drug test for marijuana and provide an Employee Assistance Program to help them from potential abuse or addition, whether the employee pays for it or the company does.
Finally, provide educational materials on the actual effects of marijuana to a person's body and how it can negatively affect the workplace. Being open with your employees on why the drug and alcohol policies are in place is very important.
Be sure to check out our monthly webinars, including: Marijuana and the Workplace. Don’t miss it.