Q: We are in a state that has legalized marijuana for recreational uses. We would like to modify our drug and alcohol policy to allow off-duty marijuana use. Would there be any issues with doing this?
A: Yes, there are some issues you’ll want to consider.
The problem with allowing off-duty use of marijuana is that you’re left with no way to enforce a policy that prohibits on-duty use. THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) can be detected for several days—or even weeks—if the employee is a frequent user. When testing, you wouldn’t know if the employee used marijuana two hours ago while at work or on the weekend/last night after work.
We would not recommend a lenient policy on marijuana in a company that has safety-sensitive roles or employees that drive frequently for work. Studies have shown that driving skills remain impaired up to three weeks after using. You will also need to comply with specific drug testing requirements if you have driving positions that are subject to Department of Transportation rules.
"We would not recommend a lenient policy on marijuana in a company that has safety-sensitive roles."
For companies without such positions, a more lenient approach may be considered. For example, if you currently have a practice of testing all applicants or conducting random tests of your current employees, you may want to switch to testing only upon reasonable suspicion of impairment on duty. Most drug and alcohol policies take the stance of “zero tolerance” and have a provision that provides for testing in the event of suspicion of use. However, in the event there is ever a problem with an employee using or being impaired on the job, testing would not determine when the use occurred, so you cannot guarantee that it would not catch someone who used off-duty.
We do not recommend taking out drug testing language completely or indicating that you will not test for marijuana as these would make it harder for you to enforce your policy that people not use or be impaired by drugs or alcohol while on duty.
In general, having language that prohibits marijuana use and impairment on the job along with reasonable suspicion drug testing language may well screen out some candidates and employees who are recreational users.
Want to learn more about marijuana policies? Watch the webinar on-demand, "Weed in the Workplace - Answers to Commonly Asked Questions."