The True Cost of Cannabis for Employers

Aug 8, 2019 by

In a webinar for the National Safety Council, President of the Drug-Free Solutions Group Christine Clearwater gives her reasons why legal cannabis shouldn’t have employers changing drug policies to a softer stance.

Think About The Risks

* Between 2010 and 2013, cannabis-related car accidents increased 300 percent and are still rising.

* Law enforcement agencies contend modern cannabis is far stronger than in the past.

* Some researchers believe cannabis may be addictive.

Clearwater says a company’s drug policies are strictly business decisions, ideally made without emphasis on legal, moral or ethical debates.

Cannabis and Job Safety

Cannabis affects reaction time, coordination, and depth perception. For jobs where quick decisions, precision motor skills, or reaction time are crucial, cannabis could kill someone. Drivers, machinery operators, and maintenance are occupations where cannabis is dangerous.

A National Institute on Drug Abuse study said workers who tested positive for cannabis were in 55 percent more accidents, 85 percent more injury cases and had 75 percent higher no-shows than workers who tested negative.

Other costs:

* Productivity decreases
* Higher turnover
* Unemployment and worker’s compensation
* Lawsuits

Companies spend $7,000 yearly on each worker abusing drugs. Statistics show 16.7 percent of employees are substance abusers. Among 500 workers, that’s almost $600,000 yearly. That’s a lot of room to improve the bottom line. Management needs strong, rational decisions about positioning companies to face these risks.

Courts Favor Employers

Medical cannabis users have pressed lawsuits over drug policies, but state courts have found that statutes favor companies when employees are disciplined or applicants rejected.

This is true even when employees are licensed for medical cannabis. However, there are some states that specifically protect licensed employees, sometimes preventing disciplinary action.

Using cannabis is a federal crime. The FDA classifies cannabis on Schedule 1, the most dangerous substances controlled by the U.S. government. There are no federally accepted medical uses for cannabis. Federal law supersedes with interstate commerce or federal highways and property.

* Employers are specifically protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
* Employees under the influence in connection with an accident will not receive worker’s compensation in most states.
* Medical cannabis is not covered under most state health insurance.

Hiring Sober Workers

The Society for Resource Management says the latest state-level cannabis laws make it hard to find workers meeting strict drug-testing regimens in defense and safety-crucial industries. These companies have zero tolerance for cannabis use. Companies in states where cannabis has been legalized often hire employees from other states.

No other drug is more abused than cannabis. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows one in five Americans 18 to 25 use cannabis. Over seven percent over age 26 have used cannabis.

Robust Drug Policies Are the Best Protection

Statistics prove frequent drug testing keeps employees honest. If workers know they’ll be tested, they’re two-thirds less likely to test positive. Testing for the most commonly abused drugs is the only way to provide protection.

Other steps include

* Management training to reinforce drug policies.
* Programs for workers who come clean.
* Clear rules for medical exceptions, testing, and convictions for drugs.

A conviction for possession of marijuana carries a number of possible penalties, including years in prison. The only way to address issues of this impact is to specify penalties and procedures in painstaking detail.

Drug policies must be reinforced by clear procedures and reviewed by attorneys for compliance with statutory law. It’s crucial for workplace safety that policies are updated often to reflect constantly changing legal issues surrounding cannabis.

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