The Debate on Medical Marijuana and the Workplace

Last updated on February 3rd, 2021 at 03:33 pm

… So what is an employer to do?  Carefully review applicable state law. Most current state medical marijuana laws do not address the workplace and thus do not require the employer to accept medical marijuana as an acceptable medical explanation for a positive employment drug test.  Safety issues have to be considered as well if an employer elects to accept medical marijuana in its testing program. The bottom line is that a carefully written drug testing policy is essential.

An employer should not have to accommodate the use of medical marijuana and jeopardize workplace safety. Joe Reilly and National Drug Screening can provide assistance with employer policies regarding medical and recreational marijuana.  A policy review is available at no cost.  Employers need to address medical marijuana in their drug-free workplace policies.

Medical Marijuana is a term used by proponents of smoking Marijuana to convey medical benefits.  It is also used by states that have legalized the use of smoking Marijuana for medicinal purposes.  At issue is that there is no way of proving that smoking Marijuana has quantifiable medical benefits.  This is because it cannot be confirmed through the process of clinical trials.

Clinical trials for determining the benefits of smoking Marijuana are difficult to conduct due to the inability to conduct controlled, double-blind studies.  In order to conduct double-blind studies, both the patient and the provider cannot have knowledge of what drug is being administered.  This is to avoid the “placebo” effect.

Dronabinol, more commonly known by its brand name Marinol, is a legally prescribed drug. The active ingredient is a synthetic version of the delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as delta-9-thc.  The approved use of Marinol is outlined in the Physicians’ Desk Reference.

So the first level of the debate is around not only the true value of smoked, or ingested marijuana, but the proper reasons for prescribing Marinol.  There will never be a resolution at this level.  In fact, as more derivatives come on the market, the debate will rage around this topic, but the basics will not change.

Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, a drug with no acceptable medical uses. Thus anyone who uses marijuana, no matter what state law permits, is in violation of federal law. It is enough to say that marijuana remains illegal by federal law everywhere, all the time, no exceptions.  The debate is not even a debate.

Of those states with medical marijuana laws, none give marijuana status equal to prescription drugs, which means an employer most likely cannot fire a worker who is using Zoloft, but can fire a worker who medicates with marijuana.

For every person who is for legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, there is another who argues against it. Some of the arguments from the opposition include:

  • Frequent marijuana use can seriously affect your short-term memory.
  • Frequent use can impair your cognitive ability.
  • Smoking anything, whether it’s tobacco or marijuana, can seriously damage your lung tissue.
  • Not enough evidence supports marijuana as an effective pain-relieving agent.
  • Marijuana carries a risk of abuse and addiction.
  • Smoked marijuana contains cancer-causing compounds.
  • Smoked marijuana has been implicated in a high percentage of automobile crashes and workplace accidents.
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The Debate on Medical Marijuana and the Workplace

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