Even though HHC remains a federally prohibited narcotics, the number of states that allow its usage steadily increases. These regulatory changes have created a new issue for businesses with drug testing programs. Either these issues are a part of the employee onboarding process or a periodic condition of employment.

Employers have a financial incentive to ensure that their workers do not arrive at work being high, but cannabis usage off the clock would result in a failed drug test. In response to the change in state regulations, employers are easing their drug-testing protocols to allow employee usage outside of the office. Are their policies for new job candidates changing? Are they adopting different standards for occupations that need a high level of safety? Or are they sticking to the same standards because of fear of marijuana in the workplace?

The Evolution of Cannabis Laws

Cannabis legalization has progressed from a fringe subject to a national debate in the last two decades. Only five states, including Washington, D.C., had medicinal marijuana legislation in the 1990s. Over the years, the number steadily increased to more states but permitted adult usage (commonly referred to as recreational use) remained unheard of.

The legalization of cannabis for the first time happened in 2012 when Colorado voters approved Amendment 64. Several other states and the District of Columbia have legalized adult-use cannabis in seven years. While most of this action took place via referendums, Vermont was the first state to legalize cannabis through the legislature.

During the same period, the number of states where citizens may receive a medicinal marijuana card increased to 33. While cannabis remains an illegal narcotic under the Federal Controlled Substances Act, the federal government has embraced a states-first approach to regulating and policing the new cannabis economy due to shifting legislation. Some federal senators have submitted legislation favoring the business or calling for full legalization throughout the country, a development that might lead to marijuana use in the workplace.

Legalization of cannabis and workplace drug policy

Many employers have been put in jeopardy due to these rapid developments. Many businesses have zero-tolerance rules for drug use (including marijuana) in and out of the office and, understandably, do not want their workers arriving at work drunk.

The legalization of cannabis is not the primary problem. But we need to know that workers coming to the duty being intoxicated are grounds for firing in any organization, regardless of the legal status of alcohol.

A fundamental concern with marijuana for companies is not legalization, but workplace safety, who is also a criminal defense attorney. The issue for employers is that marijuana impairment is often considerably more difficult to detect and test for than alcohol impairment. Unlike alcohol, employers can’t identify whether a positive drug test for marijuana is the consequence of drug use during work hours or nonwork hours; therefore, an absolute prohibition is logistically more straightforward.

However, state law complicates workplace drug regulation beyond a fundamental prohibition on marijuana usage in other circumstances.

Adult-use marijuana vs. medicinal marijuana

There is a big difference between adult-use cannabis, a recreational activity, and medical cannabis, which is given as a treatment to patients who utilize a medical marijuana card to get cannabis for various ailments listed by state legislation. Some jurisdictions apply that difference to the workplace, influencing companies’ drug policy.

Employers must understand their rights and responsibilities regarding drug testing since state regulations constantly change. Marijuana remains federally illegal, and businesses are typically permitted to maintain a drug-free workplace and implement zero-tolerance policies.”

However, company owners must know whether any of their workers are medical marijuana users and if the state’s laws safeguard their use of cannabis in the workplace or against failure of employer-mandated drug tests.

When penalizing medicinal marijuana users, a firm must use caution. Several states have regulations to protect medicinal cannabis users from workplace discrimination. Employers may often conduct drug testing before hiring and at random intervals, as long as there is no prejudice against medical marijuana users who are lawfully permitted to consume cannabis for therapeutic purposes.

Employee morale complicates workplace drug rules even more. Many workers contend that legal cannabis use outside of work should not be grounds for dismissal if they fail an employment drug test. Employers must consider their employees’ attitudes when determining drug-testing disciplinary judgments.

How marijuana usage affects work safety?

In jobs with a greater risk of on-the-job employee injuries, the discourse about marijuana in the workplace takes on an entirely different tone.

Marijuana use in the workplace may raise the likelihood of occupational injuries. According to research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, there is a statistical link between marijuana usage and an increased risk of workplace accidents. This danger is heightened for individuals whose employment requires them to drive automobiles, particularly public transportation drivers since multiple studies have linked marijuana intoxication to reduced driving skills.

The risks linked with marijuana usage and workplace safety in various jurisdictions have influenced workers’ compensation legislation. Workplace injuries experienced while worker’s compensation in Michigan does not cover intoxicated.

Although marijuana in the workplace may be dangerous for jobs that need high safety, it may protect against workers’ compensation claims in other professions. Health Economics journal research says that states with medicinal marijuana programs showed a 7% drop in workers’ compensation claims. This decline might be attributed to medicinal marijuana curing many of the same ailments and symptoms that employees seek treatment for via workers’ compensation claims.


Several states currently permit individuals to consume marijuana for medicinal, recreational, or both. However, in most states, those who use cannabis recreationally may be dismissed or refused employment. Cannabis proponents urge governments to do more to safeguard employees. They point out that workplace drug tests do not determine if a person is high at the time of the test but instead whether they have used them lately. They further argue that workplace drug testing is an issue of equality since tests are more widespread in blue-collar occupations and disproportionately harm non-White employees.

By Manali