What Employers and Businesses Should Know about Marijuana

Marijuana legalization also involves significant downsides to existing businesses.  As marijuana use has increased in states that have legalized its use, so has use by employees, both on and off the job.  Large businesses in Colorado now state that after legalization they have had to hire out-of-state residents in order to find employees that can pass a pre-employment drug screen.  Moreover, the pot lobby has vowed to make employees’ “rights” to use pot a priority.

More detailed information can be found in the presentation below.  Also, you can sign up for SAM press releases and business-related emails to stay informed about developments in this area.


Additionally, the following news articles detail some of the problems employers are facing with hiring and employment in states where marijuana are legal:

  • “Amtrak engineer in fatal crash tested positive for marijuana, NTSB says.”  Washington Post.  January 26, 2017.  “The Amtrak engineer in a crash that killed two workers doing maintenance on a rail bed south of Philadelphia last year tested positive for marijuana, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a report issued Thursday.Alexander Hunter, an engineer with New Jersey Transit and Amtrak for 17 years, survived the crash with minor injuries. But two men working on the railway — Joseph Carter Jr., 61, and Peter John Adamovich, 59 — were killed.”(This is similar to a 1987 fatal Amtrak crash where the engineer later admitted that marijuana was the cause.)
  • “Canada’s oil and gas industry warns legalized pot a workplace hazard.”  Calgary Herald.  August 31, 2016.  “‘The legalization of marijuana will have an adverse impact on workplace safety and on an employer’s ability to ensure a safe work environment,’ Enform CEO Cameron MacGillivray wrote.

    “In an interview, Mark Salkeld, president and CEO of the Petroleum Services Association of Canada, a member of Enform, said employers who have spent the past decade implementing and enforcing comprehensive drug and alcohol policies at their work sites are fearful their efforts could be undermined if marijuana is legalized.” 
  • Q & A on medical marijuana laws in Ohio and the workplace.  USA Today Network.  June 30, 2016.  “[We don’t know] what the impact [of marijuana use] is going to be on that person’s ability to the job and do it safely. Without knowing that, that person could be a risk. You don’t want the worker to be in a safety-sensitive position. Even if he’s sweeping the floor, if he doesn’t have his wits about him, and he’s near a press or another piece of machinery, he could get hurt, which would be workers comp. If it’s an injury to a co-worker, it’s workers comp. If it’s a third party who’s hurt, that’s a lawsuit.” 
  • Marijuana use one of the top 10 legal issues facing the trucking industry.  Truck News.  June 16, 2016.  “It’s widely believed that Canada will legalize marijuana for recreational use. This will affect trucking companies, [lawyer Heather] Devine noted. She looked to Colorado as an example. When pot was legalized there, there was a spike in failed drug tests among drivers.” 
  • “More incidents of workplace pot use reported after legalization in Colorado, expert says.”  Las Vegas Review-Journal.  June 10, 2016.“Colorado’s marijuana law clearly says that it doesn’t require an employer to permit or accommodate the use of marijuana in the workplace, but there are efforts around the country to erode those standards[.]” 
  • “Hiring Hurdle: Finding Workers Who Can Pass a Drug Test.”  The New York Times.  May 17, 2016.“All over the country, employers say they see a disturbing downside of tighter labor markets as they try to rebuild from the worst recession since the Depression: They are struggling to find workers who can pass a pre-employment drug test.That hurdle partly stems from the growing ubiquity of drug testing, at corporations with big human resources departments, in industries like trucking where testing is mandated by federal law for safety reasons, and increasingly at smaller companies.But data suggest employers’ difficulties also reflect an increase in the use of drugs, especially marijuana — employers’ main gripe — and also heroin and other opioid drugs much in the news.

    In Colorado, “to find a roofer or a painter that can pass a drug test is unheard-of,” said Jesse Russow, owner of Avalanche Roofing & Exteriors, in Colorado Springs.” 
  • “Drug Use a Problem for Employers.”  The Colorado Springs Gazette.  March 24, 2015.“Johnson said his company has encountered so many job candidates who have failed pre-employment drug tests because of their THC use that it is actively recruiting construction workers from other states.” 
  • Marijuana’s Negative Impact on Workplace Safety and Productivity.  Occupational Health & Safety.  February 1, 2016.  “Safety concerns are often a company’s primary reason for prohibiting marijuana in the workplace, and they are a valid basis for banning the drug. Marijuana use has been linked to an increase in job accidents and injuries, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that the short-term effects of marijuana include impaired body movement, difficulty with thinking and problem-solving, memory problems, and an altered sense of time.

    The impact marijuana use makes on transportation safety can be especially alarming. The drug impairs attentiveness, motor coordination, and reaction time and impacts the perception of time and speed. Studies from the National Institute on Drug Abuse have found that marijuana negatively impacts driving performance, and other researchers have found that acute use of the drug increases the risk of crashes and fatal collisions.”