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.
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Additionally, the following news articles detail some of the problems employers are facing with hiring and employment in states where marijuana are legal:
- Landlord pays high price for renter’s medical marijuana grow-op. CBC News. February 27, 2017. “Longtime landlord Darryl Spencer was left scrambling for insurance after discovering a tenant was growing dozens of medical marijuana plants inside and outside his rental house.When the landlord told his insurance company about the perfectly legal grow-op, his coverage was cancelled, leaving him with no insurance, few rights and a big cleanup bill.”
- Data Shows Escalating Drug Use in the U.S. Workforce. Quest Diagnostics. January 24, 2017. “Dr. Barry Sample, Senior Director of Science and Technology, Quest Diagnostics, reviews Drug Testing Index (DTI) data in conjunction with NSDUH results to compare positivity trends and self-reported drug use over time. The latest DTI data revealed steady increases in overall positivity in the combined U.S. workforce that reached a 10-year high. The NSDUH survey results also support the DTI findings with year-over-year increases of self-reported drug use since 2012. In addition, the DTI called attention to increases in marijuana positivity during the past five years. NSDUH also indicates higher self-reported use for marijuana with 22 million Americans identifying as current users.”
- “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.”
- Number of U.S. railroad workers testing positive for drug use skyrockets. Washington Post. September 15, 2016 “Testing in 2016 has shown that nearly 8 percent of workers involved in rail accidents were positive for drug use, including marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, benzodiazepine, OxyContin and morphine. Overall, the number of railway workers — including engineers, train crew and dispatchers — who tested positive for drug use in random tests soared 43 percent last year, the documents show. The number rose to 256 last year from 2014.”
- 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.”
- Legal Pot in Colorado: How it’s Affected Trucking. Heavy Duty Trucking, November, 2015. “Legalization has made an already critical shortage of drivers worse. While motor carriers continue to tell their truck drivers that they are in violation of the law if there is even a trace of marijuana in their system, our companies continue to see high failure rates on drug tests.While our industry anticipated the challenge associated with a higher failure rate for drug tests, we did not foresee some of the other challenges associated with legalization.One major surprise was the space/storage requirements for the marijuana industry.The marijuana industry is much more than the local shop that sells the product. It requires an infrastructure of “grow houses” and warehouses to support the business. The price of warehouse space as well as terminals (that have been converted) has risen dramatically, and there is now a shortage of space.”
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.”