Considerations for Legalized Marijuana in the Workplace

For companies that operate under strict no-drug policies, the legalization of cannabis throughout the United States has posed a number of potential risks and challenges. Statutes that permit the use of medical and recreational cannabis are spreading through the country, spearheaded by cannabis advocates and state governments that can see major tax benefits.

But while legalized cannabis does present some benefits, it can also put employees, customers/clients, and businesses in harm’s way. According to a study reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, employees who tested positive for cannabis had 55 percent more industrial accidents, 85 percent more injuries, and 75 percent greater absenteeism compared to those who tested negative for cannabis use.

So, how do companies balance potential liability risks and respecting legal and medically encouraged cannabis use?

Just Say No

Whether or not cannabis is legal in a specific state, companies are able to ban cannabis use on the job. Employers in the United States have the ability to set a variety of workplace standards and regulations, as long as they are not discriminatory towards someone. This includes firing an employee for using cannabis at work in states where it’s legal to use recreationally, such as California. In Colorado, for instance, most businesses have instituted zero-tolerance rules that ban recreational cannabis.

Companies that do have strict no-cannabis policies should make sure the policies have clear language and outline what’s expected during working hours. Specifically, there should be language around the difference between recreational and medical cannabis use. By outlining the rules directly, companies can avoid any confusion amongst their workers while also potentially avoiding major legal liabilities.

This should also be backed up by Employment Practices Liability Insurance. An Employment Practices Liability Insurance policy covers businesses looking to keep discrimination claims from employees at bay. Having this coverage will protect a company from discrimination claims from employees who allege they were unfairly treated, fired, or disciplined based on their cannabis use.

Medical Marijuana is Allowed

While recreational use may be one thing, medical use of cannabis is another. Most workers must be allowed to take medical cannabis as prescribed. Even at zero-tolerance companies, legal use is protected as long as it has been certified by a physician. Legal cannabis, which mostly utilizes the benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) instead of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which causes a high, and can help with such ailments as Chron’s disease, nausea, cancer, chronic pain, and PTSD.

Cannabis is much safer for pain management compared to opioids and can help workers focus and find physical relief.

The Jury is Still Out

Cannabis still remains classified as a Schedule 1 drug according to federal law. This puts it in the same category as such harsh drugs as heroin. States have implied legal protection from federal law, banning the federal government from using funds to interfere with state laws that legalize medical cannabis use.

Employers can prohibit on-duty usage, but they should still consider being sued for discrimination. Companies should consider the best route that ensures the safety of their employees, customers, and overall operations. Staying up to date on state and local laws, while also using Employment Practices Liability Insurance to operate responsibly will help to limit risks.

About Axis Insurance
At Axis Insurance Services, we aim to help our customers identify their exposures and protect themselves. Founded in 1999, we offer insurance programs to a wide variety of professionals and industries including attorneys, real estate, healthcare, architects, and more, and also have a wholesale division. We pride ourselves on offering flexible insurance coverage tailored specifically to each customer’s needs. To learn more about our solutions, contact us at (877) 787-5258 to speak with one of our professionals.

EPLI Insurance, Workplace Discrimination, Cannabis Claims, Employer Liability for Cannabis

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