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The Pandora's Box of Marijuana and Workplace Policies

It wasn’t too long ago that we discussed on this blog how cell phone policies are changing the nature of manager/employee relationships. Cell phones at work was a concern that many managers were bringing to our attention, and recently a new concern has begun keeping busy managers (specifically on the West Coast) up at night: how to create and enforce a drug policy in the wake of the legalization of marijuana.

Currently, marijuana is legal for recreational use in 10 states and Washington, DC; and is legal for medicinal use in 33 states and Washington, DC. Conflating the issue, just this week CVS announced the availability of Cannabis-based products in eight states. So employers need to be in the know and be prepared.

In a survey conducted by Current Consulting Group, LLC, over 64% of employers are concerned with the issue of marijuana in the workplace, and the increased costs in the workplace due to the legalization of marijuana (these costs are incurred due to the time it takes to revamp employee policies, and HR training to address new policies). In the wake of these new issues surrounding marijuana in the workplace, companies are rethinking their drug testing policies as employers struggle to find qualified candidates in this tight labor market – unemployment is at a 48 year low. Some companies are following the lead of those noted in Florida who are considering dropping the THC component or ignoring positive THC test results. Joyce Chastain, a human resources consultant and former president of the HR Florida State Council is quoted in the Palm Beach Post article saying:

“Quite a number of our clients are no longer testing for THC…. they don’t want to lose good people.”

While many employers are caught scratching their heads on this issue, we have a few simple tips to help employers address the issue of employee marijuana usage (the conversation about member usage we will save for another day!):

Create a Process

Depending on your state’s laws when it comes to the use of marijuana (is it legal for recreational use, medicinal use, or both?), you will need to make sure that your organization has put in place policies that address drug testing and whether they are to be conducted prior to employment/at random and what you will test for. If you have a process in place to address how drug testing is conducted, you can move forward with addressing how the results from the drug tests are organized and create policies to address violations.

Make Sure Rules are Clearly Stated

It is important to note that while marijuana is legal in many states, it is still illegal under federal law. This presents a bit of a gray area when it comes to law enforcement, but it does not have to present a gray area when it comes to employment policies. Like alcohol, marijuana can inhibit an employee’s ability to perform their job to the best of their ability. Therefore, many organizations are taking the stance that employees cannot come into work under the influence of any substance that can impair their ability to perform their job duties. Rules like these should be spelled out clearly in your organization’s employee handbook. It’s also important to note that if you have an employee smoking policy but are prohibiting the use of marijuana while on the clock, be sure to clearly state what can and cannot be smoked.

Train Your Managers

As the legal recreational use of marijuana becomes more mainstream, managers must be trained and educated on any new policies and processes that your organization enacts because the managers are the first line of defense when it comes to enforcing employee policies. Managers should also have access to HR professionals both within your organization, and within their industry, to help guide them through any bumps they may encounter along the way.

While addressing or researching radical changes in drug policies seems daunting, it is vital that organizations spend quality time determining if and how these changes will affect the company’s culture, your current employees and future employees.

Is your organization faced with opening Pandora’s Box of marijuana workplace policies? You are not alone! As states continue to legalize marijuana for legal or medicinal use, employers are working to figure out how this will affect their company and how to adhere to the laws surrounding their employee rights. Join Rebecca Page, of HR Plus and Jackie Sharrock of AccuCheck Screening for a free webinar on March 28th as they facilitate a conversation surrounding marijuana and employment policies. REGISTER HERE!


Whitney Reid Pennell, president of the RCS Hospitality Group (formerly Reid Consulting Services) is a celebrated management consultant, educator and speaker. RCS, the creators of the Food and Beverage Boot Camp™, specialize in operations consulting, strategic planning, food and beverage management, and training programs.

For more information, phone (623) 322-0773; or visit the RCS website at

#webinar #HRPlus #HR #AccuCheckScreening #drugtesting #drugpolicy #CMAAeducation #marijuana #employeepolicy #rules #managementtraining

Whitney Reid Pennell
 Founder & President

Whitney Reid Pennell is the founder and president of the award-winning RCS Hospitality Group (formerly Reid Consulting Services). She is a published author and widely praised seminar leader, with over 20 years of club operations management and consulting experience. 

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