Drug tests may have been a standard practice in your company in the past, but you could be facing the unique challenge of managing your drug testing policy in a changing legal landscape. Right now, there are 36 states and 4 territories that have legalized marijuana for medical use and 18 states, 2 territories, and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use. With the increase of legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use in multiple states, you may be wondering if you need to make a change to your drug testing practices. Here are a few things to think about as you evaluate your company’s stance on drug testing:

Medical Marijuana Use

Depending on the state you are in, you may have employees that use medical marijuana under the direction of a physician. These employees may be using marijuana on their own time, outside of work, to treat a medical condition, but they will still likely fail a drug test. Most states, including Utah, allow employers to continue to operate a zero-tolerance policy for all drug use, including marijuana. There are few good reasons you may want to continue to do this.

First, some contracts with vendors or suppliers may require a zero-tolerance policy where allowed by state law. This is typically done to minimize safety and security concerns. Clients that work with Helpside sign an agreement that they will maintain a zero-tolerance policy for certain prohibited substances, including marijuana, with or without a prescription. Additionally, work in some locations or on government jobs may also require zero-tolerance drug programs.

Second, employers in service industries may adopt a zero-tolerance policy to maintain a certain reputation with customers. For example, companies that provide services to children, individuals with disabilities or the elderly, or those with employees who drive heavy machinery or company vehicles. Additionally, companies that provide services inside customer homes, such as HVAC technicians, plumbers and electricians, may find it beneficial to market themselves as a zero-tolerance company.

If you decide to allow the use of medical marijuana because the situations above do not apply, you should still require that employees be unimpaired at work and keep marijuana and associated paraphernalia away from the workplace.

It is also important to understand the state laws surrounding medical marijuana usage before you discipline an employee for legally using medical marijuana. You should request that job candidates provide evidence of a medical marijuana prescription to the Medical Review Officer (MRO) reviewing your drug screens. In most states, an employer can still choose to maintain a zero-tolerance policy for drugs, including medical marijuana, but you want to be up-front with your employees about the policy in your hiring practices.

Safety Concerns

Even if marijuana use is legal in your state, it still comes with some safety concerns in the workplace. If your company has a high potential for employee injury or requires operation of machinery, then drug use of any kind could be dangerous in your workplace. In your job descriptions make sure to include that employees in those safety-sensitive positions need their judgement unhampered by drugs to safely and correctly carry out their job duties. Testing for drug use in this case can help prevent against safety risks.

Additionally, many workers’ compensation policies require employees to be tested for drugs in order to qualify for workers’ compensation coverage. Make sure you understand these requirements when you develop your drug testing policy.

Consistent Processes

Whether or not you opt to change your drug testing policy, your employees should be notified of your drug testing practices and the consequences for failing to comply.

Dealing with the changing legality of drug use in the United States can be difficult to manage as an employer. If you need help, reach out to Helpside at humanresources@helpside.com