It’s starting to become a tired topic, but that may be because no one has a good solution to it yet.
Yes, more and more we’re seeing that workplace policies are running head on into state marijuana laws that allow for people to legally use medical, and in a few cases recreational. marijuana.
Problem is, there aren’t a lot of workplace managers who know what to do.
A recent story on the Associations Now website noted that:
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and employers do not have to tolerate use among their employees in most circumstances, said (Edward) Yost (who specializes in employee relations for the Society for Human Resource Management). But the situation can get tricky for workplaces that regularly conduct drug testing—or those considering it.
“It’s going to be important to outline and inform employees in advance of what your testing possibilities are,” Yost said. “If you don’t have it in your policy that you could test, you can’t just arbitrarily send Bill or Betty off for a drug test today because you kind of think they’re a little bit wobbly.”
Then there’s the question of whether to adopt a zero-tolerance policy, which Yost warns against implementing lightly. Doing so leaves employers hidebound regardless of potential mitigating circumstances.”
Yes, employers are caught in the middle of a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation when it comes to how company policies and workplace rules work in the states where marijuana is legal. And, random testing has become a particular sticking point.
Here’s a typical workplace scenario put forth in the Associations Now story:
For example, what if an otherwise stellar employee tests positive during a random test (not one given under suspicion of on-the-job intoxication)? The employer could excuse the incident, but that puts management in a bad position—and potentially in legal trouble—if another employee fails a similar test, (SHRM’s) Yost warned. The key is to adopt a policy and enforce it consistently.
“Can exceptions be made? It’s possible, but I also would not paint myself into a corner by having a zero-tolerance policy if I wasn’t willing to lose my best employee,” Yost said.”
Yes, there’s the rub — are you willing to lose you best employee when they have been using marijuana legally in a state where that is acceptable? More importantly, shouldn’t an organization’s policy handbook lay out how legal cannabis use squares with workplace responsibilities?
It’s a reasonable question, but very few businesses have dealt with it.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but the Federal Government could provide some help here by easing up on marijuana and downgrading it from its Schedule I status. That would help because too many employers still fall back on Federal drug policies as the reason to punish employees using marijuana legally in a state where cannabis use is acceptable.
And as I write this today, that’s half of the states, with many more to come.
Workplace issues are never easy to navigate, but marijuana legalization is a particularly sticky issue. I certainly understand why so many HR people are ignoring it, but smart human resource professionals understand that the best policies are the ones that get ahead of a problem before it blows up in their face.
I wish more HR pros were dealing with this. Unfortunately, they’re not, and they probably won’t — until it becomes a big problem.
It will be a huge mess for you when that happens. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.