Marijuana is now legal to use in the privacy of your home in Colorado and Washington State. Big deal, it’s just another substance people will use to alter their reality, help them deal with the pressures of the day, party, and possible help them relax.
Why are so many people all worked up and stressed out? Every single anti-pot comment made today is exactly what people said during the 1920’s about alcohol, when hard working Americans were speaking out against the Volstead Amendment or as it was known, Prohibition. You know, when that cold bottle of liquid refreshment was illegal. When taking a shot of tequila could also get you shot by the police. When you had to sneak around, into dark alleys, make arrangements with shady, immoral, criminal types to get a bottle of wine for dinner. Now you can’t look anywhere without seeing some kind of endorsement for alcohol. The ultimate irony is the fact that beer companies sponsor cars in NASCAR.
Whether you support the decriminalization of Marijuana or not, the reality is, it’s becoming legal. First in Colorado then in Washington, and the domino effect is happening and it is this writer’s opinion that before the current President departs 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he will decriminalize it federally.
If President Obama did do this or maybe whoever replaces him does, it does not mean that it will be legal in every state. For those of you who failed your history classes in high school and college, when President Roosevelt repealed the Volstead Act, thus ending Prohibition, it was still up to the individual states to allow alcohol to be sold, consumed, or even made in their borders. If you were not aware, there are still parts of this country where alcohol is still illegal for consumption and sale. The State of Mississippi did not repeal prohibition until 1966. There are plenty of “DRY” counties and cities throughout the nation. Have you ever heard of Utah? OK, they are not as bad as they use to be, but they were one of the last states to completely repeal prohibition, this explains the popularity of the Osmond’s in the 1970’s.
One of the big concerns is how will this affect us in the work place. I recently attended a seminar that was dealing with this exact issue. How will company’s drug test, now that pot is legal? The person giving the seminar was a retired police officer who owns a drug testing business and guess where his opinions were? Yes, he was all about repealing the law and not dealing with the evolving social change. The people of Washington voted and in a democracy, that is how laws are made and changed. We as a society, need to be able to adapt to the ever changing trends in our culture and being a freedom based civilization, we need to adjust our workplace policies and procedures to fit into the new laws.
For those Business Owners, CEO’s, and Human Resources Professionals, who are standing on the side lines and stating that they should not have to change anything, I remind them that it was once a mandated social policy (not a law) but a social norm that all woman wear dresses to work. That people were required to work until their employees told them they could go home and not pay them over-time. Yes, times have changed and so must our workplace policies and procedures.
Here is the good news, if you already have a DRUG FREE WORKPLACE POLICY, you don’t have to change much if anything. But you do need to educate your employees about this. Why? Because if you don’t take the time to educate your employees (invest) than you’re going to waste time dealing with false rumors, people violating the policy, firing, recruiting, hiring, and training new people, do you see where I am going with this. If you don’t educate your employees about drugs, who will? Sorry could not pass up that clichéd commercial slogan.
Going forward, companies may need to re-consider their current Drug Testing Policies. The reason for this is due to the fact that modern drug tests for Pot cannot determine how recently you smoked marijuana and with the higher amounts of THC (the chemical in marijuana that makes you high) this makes the old rumor that Pot remains in your system for 30 days true but also false positive (drug testing term). With the changing of the laws and eventual funding, now coming from investors, towards tests to determine this information. It will only be a matter of time before we have tests that can tell you not only how many hours ago it was smoked but probably the store it was purchased at and what brand of Doritos they ate after.. Remember, the DUI machines that Police Officers use today, was not available until the 1980’s and I know people were getting DUI’s before that.
One myth that also needs to be addressed is Medical Marijuana. I wrote a previous article about this in 2010 and it is still true to this day, just because you have a medical marijuana card, does not mean you have the right to walk around stoned all the time at work. You do not have the right to show up to work under the influence of marijuana any more than you have the right to show up to work under the influence of narcotics, even if you’re Doctor prescribed them. The warning on most narcotics is “do not operate heavy machinery (which includes a vehicle).” But let’s look at both sides again.
First of all, you need to look at it from the point of view of the Legal Medical Marijuana user. They are prescribed this to treat symptoms of a chronic and painful medical issue. Many people out there to include myself have no issue with that. It’s no different than the person who needs to go home and take PRESCRIBED pain medications for chronic issues. These may include PRESCRIBED narcotics used to treat painful and ongoing medical problems that are under the treatment of a certified and licensed medical professional, not some guy who took an on-line course to get a Pot Card.
The “legal” medical marijuana user needs to understand the point of view of the business’s out there. Marijuana is still an illegal drug in some states. Insurance Companies are not recognizing this as legal treatment and also from a Workers Compensation point of view, if someone is injured while working and a drug test is performed, the fact that this person has Pot in their system, creates a huge issue.
Most companies that take their liability serious have documented COMPANY POLICIES that specifically address these types of issues. Just because you have a card that states you can use Marijuana, does not exclude you from the fact that the company your work for or want to work for has a policy against the use of narcotics while at work. They cannot allow anyone to work while under the influence of narcotics or medication that may interfere with safe working conditions. You know “Do not operate heavy machinery…”
“WOA Man, what are you talking about?” Is probably what those card carrying medical MJ users are saying right about now and to further clarify this issue, I need to cite what I have used in the past when writing company policies. “NO EMPLOYEE SHOULD WORK, BE ON THE CLOCK, OR ON COMPANY PROPERTY WITH THE INTENTIONS OF PERFORMING COMPANY DUTIES, IF THEY ARE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ANY NARCOTIC MEDICATIONS, PRESCRIBED or NOT.” So that employee who has a back injury, but feels they can work, cannot feel that way because they are under narcotics prescribed by their doctor. Hence the warning label on most prescribed medications “Do not operate machinery, drive, etc.” I repeated that because they say marijuana users have bad memories.
Right now, modern drug tests cannot determine if you smoked marijuana last night to help you sleep or if you are still under the influence right now or you fired one up on your way to work. So if you cause an accident at work, the liability issues are started. If you’re under the influence of Marijuana at work and injure someone, not only is the company at risk for damages, but so can you. Your card is not a “get out of responsibility card” either.
Next, you may believe just because you have a card in your possession that says you can use medical marijuana at your leisure to treat your diagnosed pain and illness, is no different than any other over 21 adult out there who has a card that states they are allowed to purchase and drink as much alcoholic beverage as they want. But that is different? Wait a minute, Alcoholism is diagnosed disease and in the mind of an alcoholic, they should be allowed to self-medicate themselves before, during, and after working? Sorry, that does not work either. The last time I checked, Jack Daniels, Budweiser, Jose Cuervo, or any alcoholic beverages were not recognized as prescription medicine, no matter how badly we me think or wish.
Sorry, it does not work that way. Smart companies have well documented policies concerning the use of alcohol before and during working hours. What it’s caused is REASONABLE SUSPICION and if it’s documented in your company policies (if your HR Department is on top of things), it helps protect your company and its employees from those employees who display REASONABLE SUSPICION that they are under the influence of something. This also gives the employer the right to ask the employee to go for drug and alcohol testing, sends the employee home, and safely terminates that employee for either (1) being at work under the influence of (2) Refusing to take the test.
Again, it must be in your company REASONABLE SUSPICION policies and that ALL employees are made aware of and have been given a copy of upon hiring. You cannot spring a drug test on an employee just because you think they are drunk or on drugs, unless you have it in your policies. And then you must have REASONABLE SUSPICION.
What is REASONABLE SUSPICION? There are many indicators, but you must also conduct trainings for your Managers and Supervisors so they can see the indicators, document them, and follow the policy and procedures to the letter. Variances from this policy can open your company to liabilities, so again TRAINING is strongly encouraged.
Now back to those pot heads looking for a job. Here is some good advice for you. You need to begin to lobby your state representatives about your legitimate need for this form of treatment. Once Federal Laws are changed, I am sure a more reliable detection method will be developed faster than you can say, Doritos. But until the country accepts and changes the present laws, you’re going to have to understand that companies have to protect themselves and their employees.
Now for companies out there, here is some advice. When your company interviews ALL candidates, during the interview they must be informed of your company’s policies against drugs. You might also want to include a segment that stipulates that medical marijuana use is not permitted while working. Why bother? Because doing so saves you from wasting time, energy, and money on a candidate that you might want to hire only to have them fail a pre-employment drug test.
I am not an advocate for legalized Marijuana nor am I against it. What I am about is protecting people in both the workplace and outside. This is about legitimate companies trying to protect their employees. Having a medical marijuana card does not exclude you from any social responsibilities any more than that 21 year old buying beer does not have any social responsibilities about drinking and driving. Just because it’s legal, does not give you the right to be irresponsible.