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Just Because It's Legal Does Not Mean You Can Do It At Work

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Even with Pot being legalized in the State of Washington, businesses are within their legal rights to deny employment of people who fail pre-employment drug tests even though they possess medical marijuana permits or use it recreational.

How can that be? Alcohol is legal. Yes, Alcohol is legal but you cannot show up to work under the influence of alcohol if the company states that it is agianst their policies. The same will go for Marijuana. If an organization states that they are tabacco free, they can legally NOT hire you as long as they have it written in their policies and they practice it.

People keep forgetting the FACTS that companies do have the legal right to oversee the conduct of their employees at work as long as it does not violate the Civil Rights Act.

But what about Medical Marijuana? Can I still do that at work?

First of all, you need to look at it from the point of view of the Legal Medical Marijuana user. They are prescribed this to treat symptoms of a chronic and painful medical issue. Many people out there to include myself have no issue with that. It’s no different than the person who needs to go home and take PRESCRIBED pain medications for chronic issues. These may include PRESCRIBED narcotics used to treat painful and on going medical problems that are under the treatment of a certified and licensed medical professional.

The “legal” medical marijuana user needs to understand the point of view of the business's out there. Marijuana is still an illegal drug. Insurance Companies are not recognizing this as legal treatment and also from a Workers Compensation point of view, if someone is injured while working and a drug test is performed, the fact that this person has Pot in their system, creates a huge issue.

Most companies that take their liability serious have documented COMPANY POLICIES that specifically address these types of issues. Just because you have a card that states you can use Marijuana, does not exclude you from the fact that the company your work for or want to work for has a policy against the use of narcotics while at work. They cannot allow anyone to work while under the influence of narcotics or medication that may interfere with safe working conditions. You know “Do not operate heavy machinery…”

“WHOA Man, what are you talking about?” Is probably what those card carrying medical MJ users are saying right about now and to further clarify this issue, I need to cite what I have used in the past when writing company policies. “NO EMPLOYEE SHOULD WORK, BE ON THE CLOCK, OR ON COMPANY PROPERTY WITH THE INTENTIONS OF PERFORMING COMPANY DUTIES, IF THEY ARE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ANY NARCOTIC MEDICATIONS, PRESCRIBED or NOT.” So that employee who has a back injury, but feels they can work, cannot feel that way because they are under narcotics prescribed by their doctor. Hence the warning label on most prescribed medications “Do not operate machinery, drive, etc.” I repeated that because they say marijuana users have bad memories.

Right now, modern drug tests cannot determine if you smoked marijuana last night to help you sleep or if you are still under the influence right now or you fired one up on your way to work. So if you cause an accident at work, the liability issues are started. If you’re under the influence of Marijuana at work and injure someone, not only is the company at risk for damages, but so can you. Your card is not a “get out of responsibility card” either.

Next, you may believe just because you have a card in your possession that says you can use medical marijuana at your leisure to treat your diagnosed pain and illness, is no different than any other over 21 adult out there who has a card that states they are allowed to purchase and drink as much alcoholic beverages they want. But that is different? Wait a minute, Alcoholism is a diagnosed dieses and technically and in the mind of someone who is an alcoholic, they should be allowed to self medicate themselves before, during, and after working? Sorry, that does not work either. The last time I checked, Jack Daniels, Budweiser, Jose Cuervo, or any alcoholic beverages were not recognized as prescription medicine.

Sorry, it does not work that way. Smart companies have well documented policies concerning the use of alcohol before and during working hours. What it’s caused is REASONABLE SUSPICION and if it’s documented in your company policies, it helps protect your company and its employees from those employees who display REASONABLE SUSPICION that they are under the influence of something. This also gives the employer the right to ask the employee to go for drug and alcohol testing, send the employee home, and safely terminate that employee for either (1) being at work under the influence of (2) Refusing to take the test.

Again, it must be in your company REASONABLE SUSPICION policies that the employees are made aware of and have been given a copy of upon hiring. You cannot spring a drug test on an employee just because you think they are drunk or on drugs, unless you have it in your policies. And then you must have REASONABLE SUSPICION. What is REASONABLE SUSPICION? There are many indicators, but you must also conduct trainings for your Managers and Supervisors so they can see the indicators, document them, and follow the policy and procedures to the letter. Variances from this policy can open your company to liabilities, so again TRAINING is strongly encouraged.

Now back to those pot heads looking for a job. Here is some good advice for you. You need to begin to lobby your state representatives about your legitimate need for this form of treatment. Once Federal Laws are changed, I am sure a more reliable detection method will be developed faster than you can say, Doritos. But until the country accepts and changes the present laws, you’re going to have to understand that companies have to protect themselves and their employees.

Now for companies out there, here is some advice. Your company interviews candidates. During the interview they are informed of your company’s policies against drugs. You might also want to include a segment that stipulates that medical marijuana use is not permitted while working. Why bother? Because doing so saves you from wasting time, energy, and money on a candidate who you’re not going to hire and saves you the cost of a drug test and payroll wasted on recruiters.

The bottom line here is this is not about whether or not medical marijuana works. This is about legitimate companies trying to protect their employees. Having a medical marijuana card does not exclude you from any social responsibilities any more than that 21 year old buying beer. Just because it’s legal, does not give you the right to be irresponsible.

And to end that debate about alcohol and marijuana, yes, now they are both legal but you show up to work tomorrow drunk off your kester and lets see how long you remain working. Same goes for the pot smoker.



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