Ways Employers are Adapting to the Changing Drug Policies

With marijuana becoming legal in most states, how are employers adapting to the changing drug policies?

Although marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, thirty (30) states have permitted the use of medical marijuana and approximately nine (9) states have permitted the use of marijuana for recreational use.  Many companies have turned away or fired top talent because they tested positive for marijuana on a drug test. Employers and HR professionals are finding it difficult to balance the need to hire good employees with their commitment to maintaining a safe workplace.  What’s more challenging is creating policies and procedures that comply with both federal and state requirements.

Because it’s not easy to detect the timeline of use of marijuana and opioids it’s difficult to determine whether the employee is under the influence during work hours. Some employers are opting to remove marijuana from the test panel altogether. Other employers still opt for a zero-tolerance policy. In either case, it’s important to ensure the drug and alcohol policy is clearly defined.

The policy should include: Statements that prohibit employees from reporting to work under the influence, the use, sale or possession of drugs or alcohol on the premises and the right to conduct drug testing and searches of work-spaces under reasonable suspicion or after an accident. The policy should also explain what disciplinary action may occur if an employee tests positive or refuses to test.

In the wake of the current drug and alcohol epidemic in our country, many employers are opting to promote a recovery-friendly workplace.  These employers choose not to fire a good employee but adopt policies that will promote workplace education and outreach, connect the employee with an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), provide confidentiality and refer the employee to peer recovery support programs.

This topic is one that is so important for employers to consider before they receive the “positive” test result and don’t know how they want to handle it. Take the time to discuss with your management team what is the culture you want to instill and what type of drug policy encourages that culture.