Substance abuse is a factor in 40 percent of industrial fatalities in the U.S.
Employers, does your business have a drug policy? Do you test your employees for drug use? Does your drug test include THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana? If not, you might want to consider all of these.
Jo McGuire presented information on Jan. 17 about how marijuana can impact workplace safety and the importance of having and enforcing a workplace drug policy.
McGuire explained that since legalization began, marijuana growers and cultivators have learned to increase the level of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in the plant. Other forms of consumption, such as edibles and vaping pen liquids, can have incredibly high potencies.
The higher the level of THC, the “higher” the user gets.
Higher potency also increases the duration of the high. So a person who ate a couple of gummies or vaped over the weekend may still feel the effects at work on Monday.
Chronic use has also increased from weekly to multiple times daily, McGuire said, leading to ongoing impairment problems.
What can an employer do?
“Silence equals consent,” McGuire said. Not having an explicit drug policy and not talking about expectations for a drug-free workplace implies that an employer condones drug use. “If you don’t say no, they infer from that that you’re cool with it.”
“You have to do intentional education,” she continued, “and you have to have intentional conversations and create a culture of safety that doesn’t have any tolerance for this kind of behavior in order to teach folks how to have boundaries and how to respect them properly.”
She said some pot users often use websites to find pot-friendly employers. Many employers recommended on those websites would be surprised, she said.
McGuire encouraged setting firm boundaries regarding drug use and testing. She advised avoiding drug policies that deal with offenses on a case-by-case basis.
An employer has to have a drug policy in place in order to take action against an employee under the influence at work, she noted.
As for drug testing, McGuire recommended using certified collection professionals and lab tests rather than rapid tests, which have inconsistent results. Lab-based oral fluid tests have certified results and can indicate use within the last 24 hours.
Employers should also be aware that dispensaries sell drug test cheat kits as well, McGuire said.
For those who say they don’t hire “stoners,” legalization has changed the demographics of pot users.
“It’s your shirts-and-ties, it’s your grandmas, it’s your clean-cut people,” McGuire said. Pre-screening and regular drug testing is the only way to know for sure.
When enforcing any drug policy, McGuire said it’s important to be consistent, maintain firm boundaries and make sure employees know that it’s about safety.
“To me, this is about moms and dads and brothers and sisters going home at the end of every day with all their fingers and toes to their families who love them, and being intact and being whole,” she said.