Although the whole-plant use of medical marijuana is now legal in 23 states, workplace policies can often come into conflict with the rights of cannabis users. Should employers allow their employees to use marijuana during work hours, or to arrive at work high? Would this be fair towards other employees?

Medical Marijuana at WorkWhile employers have the right to test for drugs, including marijuana, they also have the right to restrict the use of any substance while on the job. Essentially, cannabis usage gets the same treatment as alcohol consumption: employees cannot consume these substances while working, nor can they be under the influence when arriving at the workplace. However, employers need to accommodate the various conditions marijuana users might be suffering from. Therefore in most cases, employees can use marijuana in their free time, as long as its effects do not interfere with their work. Unfortunately, intoxication levels in cannabis users are not easy to determine, as scientific research hasn’t yet led to consequential results.

Employers’ perceptions are shifting

Considering these issues, one might think that employers are largely against marijuana use. In fact, chances are that recent changes in legislation are also confusing to them. Nevertheless, a study conducted by a workers’ compensation insurance provider found that 19% of employers would allow marijuana use on the job, provided that their employees possessed a doctor’s prescription. 17% were unsure about workplace cannabis use, while 62% were against it. Put into perspective, this means that 1 in 5 businesses are ready to actively accommodate their employees’ conditions that require medical marijuana treatment.

Recreational marijuana use at work forbidden

The use of cannabis for recreational purposes at work is still not permitted, and may constitute grounds for dismissal; mainly occurring when safety issues come into play. Unfortunately, employees who are under the influence of marijuana while at work are at a higher risk of occupational accidents — especially in industrial settings.

Employers might gradually become more permissive in regards to workplace marijuana use. Right now, laws are experiencing a period of transition, which will likely become reflected in workplace policies as well.