Drug Testing Safety Screenings

The Workplace & Marijuana: What to Think When the Rules Keep Changing

We cannot get away from the subject of marijuana. Every day is another development in how lawmakers are reacting to an old drug gaining new popularity. Is it good? Is it bad? As soon as you think you have a handle on the changes, here comes a new law or another study to derail you.


This week OSHA published an article on the study of marijuana studies. The study evaluated 80 other studies to draw conclusions on how marijuana affects its users. The information that lies within can give insight into how business owners can move forward with creating drug-free work policies that account for the growing number of cannabis users and the different ways it can affect workers.


“The increasing legal availability of cannabis has important implications for road safety. This systematic review characterized the acute effects of THC on driving performance and driving-related cognitive skills, with a particular focus on the duration of THC-induced impairment.”


As you can see, the results of marijuana use vary from person to person, frequency of use and the way in which the drug is administered. What does that mean for your business moving forward?


“Depending on how much THC is taken, how it’s taken, and the person taking it, they found cognitive impairment could last between three and 10 hours.”


A possible ten-hour window means that an employee could be intoxicated for an entire shift or longer. Even if the impairment window is shortened, a half day of impairment in a high-risk position puts everyone in danger.


“Most behavioral and physiological effects return to baseline levels within 3-5 hours after drug use, although some investigators have demonstrated residual effects in specific behaviors up to 24 hours…”


While there are no specific, work-related tests to determine an employee’s level of impairment, drug screenings can accurately tell you if a person had marijuana in their system while at work. It is not incumbent on you, the employer, to assess impairment or duration of impairment. The reality is, that regardless of variables, marijuana use will cause some level of lowered cognitive functioning and that could be disastrous to your workforce. The culture may be more relaxed about marijuana use, but business leadership cannot afford to allow workers on the floor with impaired cognitive functions and slowed reaction times.


This study also found that impairment does not coincide with intoxication. In other words, the desired “high” an employee gets from marijuana could wear off while impairment remains, giving that employee a false sense of confidence in their ability to perform safety-sensitive tasks at work.


“Psychomotor impairment can persist after the perceived high has dissipated.”


Studies like this one help us gain understanding on a complex topic, but they only serve to reinforce what we already know: Drug use of any kind, severity or frequency presents a real and dangerous hazard to your employees and the success of your business. As overall drug use grows, particularly marijuana use, its effect on workplace safety cannot be underestimated.


As marijuana gains popularity so too should your response. A comprehensive drug-free policy should be enforced with greater clarity and intensity. Click here for more information on how to get started on creating a drug-free work policy from Workplace Safety Screenings.


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