Recreational and medicinal cannabis use is on the rise in North America. With the legalization of cannabis in Canada last October, more and more people have been trying out the product to see if it’s right for them. Legalization opened a lot of doors for people who wanted to try cannabis for the first time, or for health purposes but didn’t want to ask their doctor for a prescription. Plus, dealing with the stigma associated with it is just too much for some people. But now it’s out there in a big way and employers are having to manage expectations, laws, and internal rules about cannabis use on the job. A lot of the assumptions around cannabis are that people can’t use it at work, but we all know that people have no problem using cannabis before going to work. So just how dangerous is it? Let’s take a look.
Without burdening you by throwing a lot of heavy statistics at you, consider the initial implications and possible problems associated with cannabis use in the workplace. Statistics don’t tell the whole story and there is always one person in the group who can argue against them anyway. It’s better to consider real-world situations in which you might find yourself, or your company, having to deal with an issue related to cannabis use. As a business owner who employees people, it’s important that you don’t rush to conclusions or make judgments about your employees. It’s human nature to judge, but you can’t convey those judgments outwardly; don’t say, “I think Joey in shipping is going to be high all the time now that Cannabis is everywhere.” He might be. But that’s not your business unless he brings it into the workplace.
Workplace drug and substance use, as well as alcohol use, is on the rise. More and more people are turning to external sources to help them deal with internal anxiety, depression, disease, abuse, and more. Judgment is not what these people need. Ready your staff by ensuring that everyone is trained on the safety risks and obligations set forth by your company. Plan to hold – and then actually schedule and execute – a meeting about safety in the workplace related to cannabis use. Remember not to impart your opinion. Company policy is not about opinion. It’s about putting forth ideas that will help keep people safe. Bring in an expert if possible, to talk to your staff about the risk and implications of using cannabis on the job. Ask people to commit to not using it before they come to work and especially while they are at work. Make it a fun, team-building event. Ask people to sign commitment documents and offer people an opportunity to make a pledge to keep your workplace as safe as possible for everyone who works in the company and uses the products or services.
Can people get hurt by using cannabis? Yes. But not by using it alone. When you factor in other things like the circumstance, the decisions made, whether heavy equipment was used or is being used, other people in the room or area, and just dumb luck can all contribute to someone getting hurt on the job. In all those situations, however, the problem comes down to not being able to focus or not having the wherewithal to have prevented the accident or issue in the first place. Is that the fault of a substance? Possibly. But it’s not for employers to judge. It’s more important that the facts be gathered and assessed, and conversations be had with those involved to determine the real story. Encourage your employees to be honest about the capacity to do work if they are using cannabis and encourage them to think twice before announcing they are okay to do something when they might not be okay at all. You company might have a zero tolerance policy – and that’s fine – but you need to make sure you have steps in place to protect your employee, even if you suspect they are using cannabis on the job, and you need to protect your company. Simply dismissing someone because they have used cannabis or you know they have been known to use it in the past is not ethical.
Whatever industry you are in, it’s best to have a game plan for dealing with dangerous situations in your company that may be compromised even further by cannabis or other substances in the workplace. Drinking alcohol and coming to work hungover has become socially acceptable and even funny to a point for some people, but there’s another set of standards applied to cannabis use that companies won’t tolerate. Decide where your company lands on the spectrum and above all, make sure your choices keep your employees safe.