How is legalized marijuana going to affect workplace drug policies?

I live in Washington state, one of two states that has legalized marijuana for recreational use. By the middle of this summer anyone over 21 years of age should be able to go into one of several stores and purchase marijuana for personal use. There’s a problem though and it relates to drug-free workplace policies.

If your company has a drug-free policy (government and state contract job are all required to be drug-free) then even if you are no longer under the influence, you’re going to test positive up to a week later and get fired. Most other drugs, like cocaine or pain killers dissolve in your system in a relatively short period of time whereas marijuana stays in your system. You can go home on Friday night and snort a large amount of cocaine, show up at work on Monday morning, get drug tested and pass. If you smoke a joint, however, you’ll test positive even though the effects of the drug will have long worn off and that joint you smoke is in no way impairing your ability to do your job safely.

Even medical marijuana will get you fired. A medical marijuana case in Colorado (the only other state where marijuana is legal) got a worker fired even though he had a prescription. He took it to court and lost. He’s presently appealing the sentence but it’s doubtful whether he’ll win.

So, the question is, if it’s legal to take marijuana in WA and CO, who exactly is going to be able to take it? Apparently only the unemployed and even they would get in trouble if drug tested because I’m guessing that the state doesn’t want to pay unemployment to people who take drugs.

What needs to happen is that a new system for drug testing needs to be put in place. If it’s legal to take marijuana, like it’s legal to have a few drinks after work, then the issue should be “Is your use of marijuana interfering with your ability to do your job safely and effectively?” not whether or not, four days later we can still find traces of it in your system.

What are your thoughts on this topic?


A State-by-State Injury Rating just posted a injury prevention report card for each state. Based on an evaluation on “10 key indicators of steps states can take to prevent injuries”, including such things as enforcing seat belts, drunk driving, domestic violence, etc…

One one scored a perfect 10, but CA and New York got a 9 while WA, OR and North Carolina each scored an 8.
At the bottom of the list Montana and Ohio ended up with only 2 out of ten.

Using the map on the site, you can click on your state to find out where you rank and why.


Cell Phones, Blackberries, MP3 Players & Workplace Safety

‘My job is primarily a desk job. I update the website, write documents, do graphic and desktop publishing work and more. While I am in an office setting with co-workers and customers around my safety does not depend on being able to hear them so I sometimes wear an MP3 player with an ear piece in one ear (in order to hear what’s going on with the other). I sometimes will text or use my cell phone during the day. The nature of my job doesn’t make this an unsafe practice.

This is not necessarily the case for everyone. Auditory distractions can be a safety issue in most plants and construction sites. MP3 players, while nice to relieve the boredom of monotonous tasks, can interfere with a worker being able to hear what’s going on around him or her. Cell phones can ring and cause distractions at crucial moments. Texting can distract as well.

While this technology isn’t that new, most safety plans haven’t been updated to reflect the companies’ policy regarding the use of these devices. It might be time to look at your documentation to make sure that employees are clear as to your companies’ policies regarding these devices so that there is no ambiguity. Preemptive planning, after all, is the name of the game in the world of safety.

So here’s the question… What is the policy regarding mobile devices and MP3s at your company? Are they banned all together? All the allowed with certain restrictions? Post a comment and let us know.