Cannabis Insights: Maintaining Employee Safety

The recent trend in cannabis legalization has created a set of unique circumstances for employers, including how they manage employee safety and risk while working to balance employee rights. Due to the nature of marijuana being prescribed for various medical conditions, this is where disability and privacy laws come into play. For example, an employer may be restricted from asking an employee about medical conditions as this could violate their health privacy regulations.


Ultimately, however, the concern for employers when it comes to cannabis use is the safety of their employees. Though marijuana affects people differently, it is generally known to affect people in some way which could potentially impair a person’s ability to work at full capacity.  Cannabis effects could include[1]:

  • Dizziness, fatigue, headache
  • Suspiciousness, nervousness, anxiety
  • Nausea, vomiting, increased heartbeat
  • Loss of full-body control, impairment of motor skills, altered bodily perceptions


To navigate the unsteady waters of employees under the influence of cannabis at the workplace, the best strategy is typically to anticipate any likely scenarios that may arise after marijuana has been legalized. As legalization efforts have not slowed, employers in various states will be, or already have been, exposed to this situation.


Review Employee Handbook and Policies Regularly
In a situation like this, where cannabis use is legalized by the state but not the federal government, it is important to be clear with your organizational policies. And, as we have seen, this legislation can change at a moment’s notice. Verify policies are easy to understand and are updated as necessary.


Communicate with Employees
Use this opportunity as a way to broach the topic of medical marijuana use at the workplace with your employees. Be upfront and honest, letting employees know where your organization stands, where the lines are, and what is deemed acceptable. Whatever your decision, communicating with your employees and staying consistent in your approach will help to ensure employee safety across the board.


Your Company. Your Decisions.
Decide what is right for your company based on your management style, employee base, industry safety standards, and state laws. It is not uncommon for employers to accommodate an employees’ use of medical marijuana. However, the employer must ensure that this employee and anyone else they may affect will be safe in the workplace, not causing themselves or others accidental harm.


Workplace Considerations
Once you have made a decision about your stance as a business regarding medical marijuana, you may find employees require additional considerations to aid in their medical treatment or recovery. Work to find ways to help modify an employee’s schedule or workload to help accommodate their illness or condition. The employee may also experience specific physical restrictions which may require assistance to address.


Keeping staff well-trained and employee reference materials current is key to operating a safe, cannabis-tolerant organization. Click here to learn more about Human Capital’s end-to-end HR and administrative services.




[1] CCOHS: Workplace Strategies: Risk of Impairment from Cannabis

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