Marijuana is in the news. Medicinal use of marijuana has been legalized in three states. Legalization of marijuana is gaining momentum in 20 other states. Employers need to consider the ramifications of marijuana in their workplace. Employers need not cower at the prospect of insisting that employees under the influence be removed from the workplace.
Last year, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that an employer is within its rights to remove an employee under the influence. The Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace issued a white paper addressing several facts about the drug.
If you have a question about the prevalence of this drug and its adverse effects, we suggest you read the white paper. Listed below is a summary of the white paper’s major points.
Marijuana is a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act. It is important to understand the costs to society and to individuals of marijuana use and weigh those costs against the benefits of decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana.
Legalizing marijuana is bad for the workplace.
The impact of employee marijuana use is seen in the workplace in lower productivity, increased workplace accidents and injuries, increased absenteeism, and lower morale.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 50 percent of all on-the-job accidents and up to 40 percent of employee theft is due to drug abuse. Drug-abusing employees are absent from work ten times more frequently than their non-using peers, and the turnover rate is 30 percent higher than for those employees who do not engage in illicit drug abuse. Workers who reported drug use are significantly more likely to have worked for three or more employers in the past year, and to have higher rates of unexcused absences and voluntary turnover in the past year.
Small businesses face the largest problem. They are disproportionately hurt by employee marijuana use because they are much more likely to rely on younger workers (who have higher usage rates), and are less likely to utilize and/or be able to afford the pre-employment drug testing which would detect drug use.
Marijuana use is rising.
Marijuana is the most common illegal drug used in the U.S. In 2012, 18.9 million Americans were past-month users, according to the U.S. Government’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
Marijuana is much more potent – and addictive – today.
The levels of THC in marijuana (Tetrahydrocannabinol is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) have never been higher, and samples seized by law enforcement have reached a new average high of 10.1 percent, compared to less than 3 percent in the 1980s.
Marijuana use has long-term negative effects.
A teenage marijuana user is twice as likely to become a high school dropout as a non-user. In a recent study of college students, regular marijuana smokers were found to have impairment of critical skills connected to concentration and recall. Compared with infrequent users, regular marijuana users had difficulty in sustaining concentration, organizing and using information.
Marijuana is bad for your health.
Years of research indicate substantial concern for marijuana’s impact on health:
Lungs: Repeatedly smoking marijuana increases the risk of respiratory ailments
Liver: International studies show that people who have current liver complications and use marijuana every day are more likely to develop severe liver fibrosis.
Heart: The heart rate increases up to 100 percent for up to three hours after smoking marijuana. Cardiac problems in marijuana smokers are linked to the rise in blood pressure and reduction in blood oxygen carried to the heart which occurs after smoking. Harvard researchers reported that the risk of heart attack in the hour after smoking marijuana is five times higher than normal.
The record on marijuana legalization in other countries provides a sound basis to reject legalization in the U.S.
Colombia legalized the personal use and possession of marijuana, cocaine, and heroin in 1994. Since the law’s implementation, research in a ten-year study indicated drug use increased by 40 percent. Drug treatment costs skyrocketed and the Colombian government is considering recriminalizing drugs to combat the problem of drug dealing.
Marijuana has been legal in the Netherlands for a long time and the statistics unfortunately reflect it. Drug use among persons aged 18-25 progressively increased more than 200 percent between 1986 and 1996. The number of cannabis addicts receiving treatment jumped 25 percent in 1997 alone.
An interesting experiment was conducted in Zurich, Switzerland’s Platzspitz Park in the late 1980s when they dispensed heretofore illegal drugs for free. They expected that “legal” drugs would generate less crime, decrease AIDS, and help ensure that addicts received treatment. After five years, the experiment was abandoned because crime and AIDS cases increased dramatically, drug-related deaths doubled, and the healthcare system was overloaded and could not handle all of the new cases.
We should be learning from these international failures, not repeating them.
Marijuana is a gateway drug.
Adults who begin using marijuana early are five times more likely to become dependent on a drug, eight times more likely to become cocaine users, and 15 times more likely to use heroin in their lifetimes.
Motor Vehicle crashes are rising as a result of marijuana use.
There has been a 49-percent increase in the rate of positives for marijuana among drivers stopped by State Troopers for suspicion of Driving under the Influence in the first six months of 2013 in the State of Washington.
A 2011 study entitled Marijuana Use and Motor Vehicle Use found that “crash risk appears to increase progressively with dose and frequency of marijuana use.” Key study findings included that “drivers who test positive for marijuana or self-report using marijuana are more than twice as likely as other drivers to be involved in motor vehicle crashes.”
Another study of more than 64,000 insured drivers from 1979-1985 found that 31 percent of drivers involved in motor vehicle crashes reported smoking marijuana prior to the accident.