Medical Marijuana and the Workplace

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By Kevin Heher, President

It’s always been one of the most common complaints of employers and now it seems more pervasive than ever:

I can’t find good people to hire.  

The COVID pandemic has and will continue to change the business world.  People who lost their jobs are now receiving more government unemployment assistance than ever, people left industries all together (hospitality and entertainment) and found permanent jobs in other fields. People blame Gen Z and the Millennials for not having the same work ethic as generations of the past.  Whatever the case, it’s really tough finding good people!!

How does this relate to insurance? Believe it not, it does in several ways.  Having to hire untrained talent may lead to more workers’ compensation injuries, resulting in higher costs from increased experience mods. We are increasingly asked, “Do I still need to test for marijuana now that it’s medically approved in the state of Pennsylvania?”

Unfortunately, there is no clear answer.

Many insurance companies either require or inquire about the drug testing policies of employers.  When asked for input, the canned response is we continue to advocate for a pre-hire drug screen.  Whatever you choose, the best advice is to be consistent with your policies. Doing so will allow you to avoid possible discrimination issues with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other applicable state and federal laws.

When an individual is prescribed narcotics for recovery from surgery, they should not operate machinery while taking their prescription. This is also applicable with the use of marijuana. You should make it clear in your safety policy that even with a prescription, employees are not permitted to work while under the influence.  As a result, many employers are also conducting reasonable suspicion training.  This includes all substances, from narcotics to alcohol. Just like it’s not okay to drink on the job, the same goes for smoking pot! It’s also worth noting that OSHA has advised that they now frown upon post-accident drug testing.  

My opinion is that a pre-employment drug test is just one tool that could be part of your candidate screening process.  After discussing with your advisors and confirming that it makes business sense for you and your operation, you may choose to remove it from the panel but still enforce reasonable suspicion testing.  It’s worth repeating that whatever you choose, you need to be consistent!

Lastly, I have to include the disclaimer that this is a brief overview of the issue and your situation will be unique.  You may be subject to a federal requirement through the Drug Free Workplace Act or collective bargaining agreement.  Please consult with your labor attorney to address questions specific to your issue.

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