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Marijuana Use in the Workplace

Marijuana Use in the Workplace - Michigan Human Resources Blog - Sage Solutions Group - smoking_on_the_job_2There is no doubt that recreational use of marijuana is on the rise. For example, it’s not uncommon to stop at stoplight, only to be hit by the smell of marijuana wafting into your car. Or when was the last time you went out to enjoy a concert, and not experience the unmistakable smell coming from 2 rows behind you? As marijuana becomes more and more woven into the social fabric, the subject of its use in the workplace is a source of concern for many organizations. Employers are confused by the laws and how they apply to their business. As the laws change towards greater lenience, some employers assume they need to turn a blind eye to marijuana use and allow workers the ability to smoke. But is this the correct path for your workplace? The likely answer is... NO! This answer has nothing to do with our personal opinions on the use of medical marijuana, instead, it is based on the premise that the workplace needs to be safe and an employer has the right to set policies that protect its workers and perhaps even customers. Since the passing of the MICHIGAN MEDICAL MARIHUANA ACT of 2008, there have been some cases heard in the courts regarding employees who tested positive and were not only let go but were also denied unemployment benefits. There are attempts to introduce legislation state by state to protect workers from adverse employment actions resulting from marijuana use. Despite these state level changes, the fact remains that marijuana is still illegal at the Federal level. Further, many industries need to maintain Zero Tolerance Policies for all workers. Suffice it to say, most people would not be comfortable stepping on a bus if the driver recently enjoyed a quick toke on his break, nor would anyone likely want their neurosurgeon partaking to “steady her hands” prior to surgery. There are other workplace standards that must be addressed. For example, Michigan is an At Will state making it difficult to argue against an employer’s right to maintain their workplace standards regarding safety and tolerance. Some argue that marijuana use should be treated like alcohol use. The struggle with this concept is that marijuana testing is not as simple as alcohol testing, in that marijuana is detectable in some cases weeks after use. Companies are working to develop tests to determine not just the detection of marijuana in the system, but the level, so that only recent use will result in a positive test. While it appears that the use of marijuana is on the rise, the ability to regulate its use is lacking. Because so much is happening at the legislative level, a year from now, the facts regarding this topic will likely have progressed to the point that this blog will be outdated. But for now, employers need to review their substance use policies and be sure they are in line with their organization’s need for safety and productivity in the workplace. For example, any worker that is required to use machinery or drive (to name a few) should understand what a Zero Tolerance Policy means and the implications if they violate this policy. In the end, employers need to stay alert to the laws, update their polices to remain in accordance with the laws and educate their employees on their expectations in the workplace. Should you have any questions on this issue, Sage Solutions Group is here to help!

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