The relationship between marijuana and work used to be simple: Smoking cannabis was illegal and applicants frequently got tested during employment screenings — so any sign of the stuff could either ruin your candidacy or get you fired.
That changed in recent years as medical marijuana became legalized across the US. Thirty-six states now allow for the use of medical cannabis products legally, and of those, 17 — plus two territories and the District of Columbia — allow adults to use marijuana recreationally.
New questions emerge: Is it ok to use marijuana at work in states where recreational use is legalized? Does it affect job performance? And will companies still require testing?
The answers are hazy. Under federal law, possession or use of marijuana remains illegal, but the ever-changing laws in states where use is legalized has created a gray area for businesses as they begin to change — and even embrace — marijuana in the workplace.
Where is marijuana currently legal — both medically and recreationally?
Short answer: Medical marijuana is legal across most states, but recreational use is a different story.
Back in 2012, Colorado became the first state to legalize the recreational use and sale of cannabis. Since then, 16 other states have quickly pushed bills to legalize weed despite the fact that it remains illegal at the federal level.
A slew of states have approved bills to legalize leisurely weed use, including Mississippi, Montana, New York, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Virginia. Surprisingly, there are now more states where people can smoke for fun (17) than there are states where legalized THC use is barred, whether recreationally or medically (13).
How does marijuana impact work performance?
Short answer: There’s no impact unless you smoke while working.
Popular stereotypes suggest that people who smoke weed are lazy and confused. But there’s a long history of medicinal applications; medical cannabis can be used for reducing anxiety, inflammation and relieve pain, control nausea and committing from chemotherapy, and even kill cancer cells, and is used to treat patients with Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, severe and chronic pain, and other ailments. Side effects vary from person-to-person.
“Weed is typically viewed as reducing motivation as it relaxes people who use. Reduced productivity is pretty much a bad thing across jobs,” Palamar told Ladders in an email. “I’m sure there are plenty of people who can remain productive while high, and I’m sure some people are even more productive, or perhaps creative, while high, but the stereotypical lack of productivity is what most employers likely don’t want and fear the most.”
Does toking up the night before work impact performance the next day?
It doesn’t, according to recent research. A study from 2020 found that smoking a joint after work did not hurt employees’ performance the following day at work, but it’s a different story if you partake shortly before or during work.
Researchers from the San Diego University said that concentration suffers — in addition to problem-solving — among those who smoke before or during work. This doesn’t necessarily spell disaster for marijuana; the effects of alcohol on workers, for example, are generally tolerated, as anyone who’s gone to work with a hangover can attest. This particular indulgence costs companies around $355 annually per employee.
“We have to keep in mind that marijuana will be used by a pretty large portion of people whether or not it’s legal to use,” Palamar said when commenting on New York’s recent legalization. “I think people can typically tell when someone is tipsy or drunk on alcohol inside or outside of the workplace, but this can be more difficult to discern regarding weed.
“If someone is suspected of being drunk at work, you can usually tell by just smelling them. This doesn’t necessarily work with weed.”
Will companies still require drug tests in states where recreational use is legalized?
Short answer: It depends.
When you were working part-time summer jobs, it was normal to be warned about drug tests. Weed can be detected in bodily fluids for 1 to 30 days after last use, and can remain detectable even longer in your hair, unlike alcohol, which can only be detected through urine analysis up to 48 hours after drinking.
In states where pot use is recreationally legal, the topic of drug tests gets a little clouded for both employee and employers.
To Read The Rest Of This Article By Kyle Schnitzer on The Ladders
Published: June 08, 2021
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News