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Medical Marijuana and its Potential Effects in the Workplace

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Medical Marijuana and its Potential Effects in the Workplace

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Category: HRSTM

Published: Nov 8 2018 12:00AM

Medical Marijuana and Work

What is Marijuana?
Marijuana is produced from the green, brown or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds and flowers of the cannabis plant. Marijuana is used for both medical purposes and as a recreational drug. The drug goes by a variety of nicknames or street names such as weed, refer, skunk, and pot (Marijuana, n.d.). The chemical in marijuana that produces psychoactive effects is called "THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol)" (Marijuana, n.d.).

Side Effects
Marijuana has a range of side effects that are both short and long-term. Some short-term effects include "loss of short-term memory (memory for recent events), altered perceptions and reaction times, and poor study habits" (Marijuana, n.d). Some long-term effects include "[losing] desire to work regularly, constant fatigue, and lack of physical upkeep" (Marijuana n.d).

Medical Usage
Marijuana also produces positive side effects, which is why it's used to treat a variety of medical conditions. Although there is controversy about marijuana's medical use, there are proven benefits of the plants beneficial effects, such as increasing appetite for cancer patients, and people suffering from HIV. As well as, reducing pain for people suffering from conditions like fibromyalgia or glaucoma, in addition to helping manage and treat other conditions (Harding, n.d).

Medical Marijuana and the Workplace
More than half of U.S. states have instituted some form of law(s) governing medical marijuana usage (Nagele-Piazza, 2017). With the perception of the drug changing and its usage becoming more widely accepted, the issue of how to handle medical marijuana in relation to the workplace is a hot topic for employers across the U.S. A clear indicator of this is the recent court rulings regarding disciplinary actions taken against employees who use marijuana off-duty. According to Nagele-Piazza (2017), courts are beginning to rule in favor of employees who legally use marijuana outside of work. Nagele-Piazza (2017), provides an example of a May 2017 judicial decision, in which a Rhode Island court sided with an employee who was denied a job after disclosing that she is a medical marijuana card holder and would fail a drug screening test. She also sites two similar court cases, one in Massachusetts high court, and the other in federal district court.

Although medical marijuana may be legal at the state level, its use is still illegal at the federal level. Further, regardless of marijuana's legality off-duty, its use on-the-job is not protected in any state. Thus, the difficulty arises for managers and HR professionals on how to develop, implement, and include marijuana policies into their employee handbooks.

Specifically, employers need to determine how to test and handle potential negative side effects of marijuana on productivity and safety; especially in safety sensitive industries. Moreover, "unlike for alcohol, there isn't a widely accepted method of testing marijuana impairment, and therefore, existing testing methods may be unreliable" (Nagele-Piazza, 2017).

Moving forward, employers and HR professionals will need to keep a sharp-eye on marijuana regulations and there potential implications on their workplaces. As for now, employees should keep in mind that while the tide is changing, marijuana use is still illegal federally, and never protected for use on the job.

Chiaravalloti, D. (20 April, 2018). Medical marijuana [photograph]. Retrieved from https://www.boardvitals.com/blog/is-medical-marijuana-fda-approved/.
Harding, A. (n.d.). Medical Marijuana. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/features/medical-marijuana-uses

Marijuana. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.guidanceresources.com/groWeb/s/article.xhtml?nodeId=100033&conversationContext=1

Nagele-Piazza, L. (15 November, 2017). 4 Things Employers Should Know About Evolving Medical Marijuana Laws. Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/state-and-local-updates/pages/4-things-employers-should-know-about-evolving-medical-marijuana-laws.aspx

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