Last May, I wrote a short piece, “California is Going to Pot“. It discussed the issue of whether medical marijuana will be allowed in workers’ comp.
Caroline McDonald, Senior Editor of the Risk Management Monitor and Risk Management magazine, wrote an article today about the cost to employers should more states legalize pot.
Ms. McDonald cited a White Paper from Quest Diagnostics that suggested that employers will face potentially costly litigation, as case law develops, and will face challenges to protect employees from injury and to comply with drug-free workplace requirements.
Quest reported that legalization has led to the production of pot-infused foods and gadgets, such as vape pens, and that these two modes of consumption will make it more difficult, if not impossible, to tell when employees are using on the job.
Ms. McDonald writes that as use of pot increases, so will injuries, accidents, mistakes, and illnesses, which will escalate the cost of the company’s liability, workers’ compensation, and health insurance.
She outlines five steps employers can take to protect themselves:
- Stay up-to-date with the changing legal landscape and adjust workplace policies accordingly.
- Remember that marijuana is still illegal under federal law.
- Join other employes to monitor state legislation and take action with legislators to ensure workplace protections are included in any marijuana laws.
- Educate your workforce about the danger it poses to children, families and the workplace.
- Challenge the notion that marijuana is medicine, or risk paying for it in your health insurance. No marijuana medicines being sold in states that legalized them have been approved by the FDA as pure, safe, or effective. Doctors cannot prescribe them and pharmacies cannot sell them.
Number five is not one that I would subscribe to, as I believe that it does help those with serious illnesses such as cancer and other rare and debilitating diseases.
So long as pot remains illegal under federal law, the FDA will not approve the use of it as a medicine, but that is what needs to change.
Yet, risk management personnel need to be mindful of the other steps, and generally, people who are using marijuana as medicine are not engaged in dangerous or harmful employment, to themselves or others. When you are that sick, working is one of the last things you are concerned with.
And advocates for legalized pot should be aware of the risks it poses not only on the workplace, but for the employee as well. Failing a drug test can get you denied work comp benefits, unemployment insurance, especially if they are terminated for cause being under the influence, and not to mention the legal hassles the employee will face.