Risk & Safety

Medical Marijuana and Workplace Safety

Sam Bowman
Medical Marijuana and Workplace Safety
Reading time 3 Mins
Published on Jun 15

Workplaces are facing extraordinary challenges related to the ever-evolving landscape of medical marijuana and its increasing use among workers. Marijuana is the most frequently used illicit drug (under Federal law) among Americans, with an estimated 43.5 million users in 2021.

Nearly 18% of full-time and 21% of part-time employed adults reported using marijuana during the previous year. The impacts of marijuana use on workplace safety are still being studied, with many businesses expressing concerns about impairment, risk of injury, recruitment and hiring, regulatory issues, and the overall health and well-being of both workers and the public.

How Marijuana Can Impact Job Safety

Marijuana (THC) affects reaction time, depth perception, coordination, and other motor skills, and it creates sensory distortion. For someone operating machinery, driving a forklift, or delivering products in a vehicle, these adverse effects can lead to deadly consequences.

According to a study reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, employees who tested positive for marijuana had 55% more industrial accidents, 85% more injurie,s and 75% greater absenteeism compared to those who tested negative. Also impacting the bottom line are:

  • Decreased productivity
  • Increased worker compensation and unemployment compensation claims
  • High turnover
  • Lawsuits

Marijuana and Workers’ Comp

There are important implications to the ever-changing landscape of marijuana in the workplace on worker safety and health issues. The impact of marijuana use on workers’ compensation claims varies from state to state and even organization to organization.

According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), most jurisdictions have workers’ compensation laws that, in some form, restrict benefits when the injury is attributed to intoxication or drug use. Interestingly, some research suggests that medical marijuana could have a positive impact on worker safety and health.

Medical marijuana may allow workers to better manage pain and other symptoms associated with workplace injuries and illnesses, reducing workers’ compensation claims and the use of opioids. However, further research, including more comprehensive and long-term studies, are needed to better understand these relationships.

Medical Marijuana and the Ohio BWC

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation has a straight-forward recommendation for employers:

“The best way employers can protect their workers and themselves is to establish a drug-free workplace, or, if they already have one, to review and update it if necessary. This is important because certain sections of the new law reference the use of medical marijuana in violation of an employer’s drug-free workplace policy, zero-tolerance policy or other formal program or policy regulating the use of medical marijuana…”

Medical Marijuana Remains a Gray Area

Due to the complicated relationship between the enforcement position of the federal government, individual state statutes, and court interpretations, employers are often left feeling confused and unsure about how to proceed. Until Ohio’s medical marijuana law is tested in court, employers like yourself will probably continue to have unanswered questions.

Marijuana Laws and Sheakley

Keeping your workforce safe is priority number one for your company. The medical marijuana law does not require employers to forego zero-tolerance drug policies in the workplace or to take these factors out of the hiring or dismissal process. Exactly how the law will ultimately impact employers’ policies long-term will most likely be decided in courts.

In the meantime, Sheakley can provide you with assistance in creating training programs and workplace drug policies that keep you compliant with the law while achieving your safety goals. Sheakley Risk & Safety Solutions’ knowledgeable professionals are here to help.

Get your free safety consultation today with an expert from Sheakley.

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