Employers beware of removing marijuana ( pot ) from your drug test panels. And individuals should be aware of using pot personally. In the midst of a wave of states approving medical marijuana and a few states legalizing pot for recreational use, we know this message sounds contrary to popular thinking. But, there are plenty of reasons why this is a very dangerous drug. And, for federal purposes, it is still an illegal drug.
We are writing this article to encourage employers to continue to test for marijuana in people who operate in safety sensitive positions in their firms. We have a recent blog post identifying the nature of safety-sensitive positions. And we want to warn of its dangers to your health.
Recently a client emailed us asking our thoughts on removing marijuana. We shared some of this information and other information from our web site. They changed their mind about removing the test panel for pot.
Employers expose themselves to litigation if an employee injures themselves, other members of the workforce or the public. The employer is liable for the actions of an employee if that employee injures someone under the tort theory of respondeat superior.
Do you want to be in front of a plaintiff attorney and a jury trying to explain why you removed pot from your drug test when an employee, high on pot, killed a family?
Some sobering statistics on the effects of pot on a person’s ability to operate machinery, automobiles and trucks and any other position where the job responsibilities require an alert mind are listed here.Highlights of information in the article:
- An increasing number of drivers involved in fatal crashes are testing positive for drugs, especially opioids and pot, according to a new study by the Governors Highway Safety Association.
- But what federal data shows is that, where tests were performed, 44 percent of drivers fatally injured in a crash tested positive for drugs in 2016, up from 28 percent a decade earlier. Of those who tested positive for drugs in the latest study, 38 percent had used pot, 16 percent had used some form of opioid, and 4 percent tested positive for a combination of both.
- “Too many people operate under the false belief that pot or opioids don’t impair their ability to drive, or even that these drugs make them safer drivers,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins. “Busting this myth requires states to expand their impaired driving campaigns to include pot and opioids along with alcohol to show drivers that impairment is impairment, regardless of substance.”
Another major potential danger is an increase in pot-related traffic accidents and fatalities.
- According to an analysis by the Denver Post, the number of pot-related highway fatalities in Colorado has doubled since a law making recreational marijuana legal took effect in 2014. The Highway Loss Data Institute found that collisions reported to insurance companies are 2.7 percent higher in weed-legal states than in the no-smoke zones on their borders.
- “It’s a giant experiment,” says Christian Hopfer, a professor of psychiatry at University of Colorado School of Medicine. He is co-leading a $5.5 million study of 5,000 sets of twins funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) on the impact that legalization has on mental health and substance use. It’s a much-needed examination since rigorous, large-scale research has been limited.
- “Smoke a couple times a day and pot will knock off your memory. That is pretty certain,” Hopfer says. “And there is no question that legalization has a normalizing effect on something that used to be against the law.”
- “If you start smoking pot as a teenager, you have a four times higher likelihood of getting addicted,” says Hopfer, who voted against legalization in Colorado. “The brain of a teenager is more sensitive to the effects than the brain of an adult would be. Pot is likely to have a more detrimental effect on kids.”
- Plus, some argue that marijuana can be a gateway to more detrimental substances, such as cocaine and prescription pills. According to a 2015 study conducted by researchers at Yale School of Medicine, using pot makes a person two and a half times more likely to abuse prescription opioids.
- And there is the danger of becoming addicted to marijuana itself. An estimated 3 million people suffer from marijuana use disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines that as significant impairment of functioning and distress, as well as symptoms such as cravings and difficulty stopping, resulting from using marijuana for at least a year.