Both benefits and concerns exist, but implementing policies and regulations promotes employee productivity, guards safety.
Both medical and recreational use of marijuana have been and continue to be a controversial topic when it comes to the workplace. In the United States, medical and recreational marijuana is illegal on a federal level. However, since February 2021, a total of 39 states have announced that marijuana is legal when used for medical reasons.1
Reasons for the medical use of marijuana run the gamut. One is to assist in coping with neurological diseases such as Alzheimer disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and epilepsy. Medical marijuana can even assist individuals who are experiencing physiological issues, including chronic pain or nausea associated with chemotherapy. Nevertheless, medical marijuana use in the workforce is controversial.
Although marijuana provides health benefits, there are many concerns when it comes to productivity and even safety in the workplace for individuals who use medical marijuana. Many effects that marijuana induces could potentially put individuals and even others around them at risk.
Adverse effects (AEs) of marijuana include dizziness, hallucinations, impaired memory, and slower reaction times.2 These AEs could be problematic, depending on the type of job or workplace. For example, workers who operate heavy equipment or machinery or work in the transportation industry could put their own lives and those of others in danger if they experience any serious symptoms while under the influence of marijuana.
State legislators have taken notice. In some states, whether an employee is allowed to use medical marijuana in the workplace is left to the discretion of the employer, and some even allow employers to decide whether to hire individuals who use medical marijuana.3 However, having employers make these decisions is not fool proof.
The results of one study showed that among individuals who used medical marijuana, there were “55% more industrial accidents, 85% more injuries, and 75% greater absenteeism compared with those who tested negative.”4
It comes down to implementing policies and regulations in the workplace to ensure productivity and safety. Such policies include ensuring management can enforce policies related to evaluating the effectiveness of employees who use medical marijuana, having guidelines and rules for employees to maintain safety, and having policies for the steps taken if a mistake occurs while an employee is using medical marijuana.
Medical marijuana use in the workplace has its benefits, but there could be a handful of concerns that arise. Because it is still a new concept, there are many policies that could be implemented to ensure productivity and safety related to its use.
1. States with medical marijuana 2022. World Population Review. Accessed November 10, 2022. https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/states-with-medical-marijuana
2. Medical marijuana. Mayo Clinic. Accessed November 10, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/medical-marijuana/art-20137855
3. Clements S. State laws on off-duty marijuana use. Nolo. Accessed November 10, 2022. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/state-laws-on-off-duty-marijuana-use.html
4. Marijuana at work: what employers need to know. National Safety Council. Accessed November 10, 2022. https://www.nsc.org/membership/training-tools/best-practices/marijuana-at-work#:~:text=According%20to%20a%20study%20reported,to%20those%20who%20tested%20negative
About the Authors
Logan C. Burford is a psychology major at the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences in Lexington.
Joseph L. Fink III, JD, DSc (Hon), BSPharm, FAPhA,
is professor emeritus of pharmacy law and policy and former Kentucky Pharmacists Association Professor of Leadership at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy in Lexington.