Many employers choose to maintain a drug-free workplace in the interest of promoting employee safety, health and productivity. However, notwithstanding the fact that marijuana is prohibited under federal law, 33 states and Washington, D.C., now permit some form of marijuana use, and thus employers must consider whether a drug-free workplace policy contravenes any of these laws. This month’s column offers some perspective on issues for employers to consider, including: background on what marijuana is; a summary of the legal landscape regarding whether and when an employer may engage in testing for marijuana use; and some suggestions concerning policies that employers may adopt to promote a drug-free workplace while respecting employees’ new rights under medical or recreational marijuana laws.
Cannabis, Marijuana or Hemp?
In considering how to address the effect of marijuana in the workplace, employers must be able to distinguish among the various cannabis-related products, including marijuana, that exist in the marketplace. Marijuana is a term for a drug, derived from parts of the flowering plant called “cannabis,” that contains more than 0.3% of the compound delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on a dry weight basis. This drug is at times referred to as “cannabis.” The THC in marijuana may cause affected individuals to experience relaxation, euphoria, anxiety, distrust, and/or an altered sense of time. Marijuana may also impair concentration, reduce coordination and cause short-term memory loss. By contrast, hemp is a term for cannabis that contains 0.3% or less THC on a dry weight basis. CBD, which stands for cannabidiol, is another compound found in the cannabis plant, which means CBD can be derived from both marijuana and hemp. Unlike THC, CBD does not produce psychoactive effects.
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