Blog: The gray side of green

By July 6, 2017 March 6th, 2019 Blog

All things green considered

This article is from Sterling’s Fall 2018 issue of its Risk & Business Magazine. Want a copy? Email jgiffels@sterlingagency.com. Please enjoy and share.

On November 7, marijuana is going to become recreationally legal in Michigan. Politically and socially, that can be viewed in many ways, but most would likely classify it as a progressive move. Economically, though, and legally . . . things are a little less clear. Businesses have already been learning to tread the waters of medical marijuana relatively carefully. Things aren’t as clear-cut for a number of reasons. Once marijuana goes recreational, everything is going to get a bit more confusing. From hiring to workplace safety to day-to-day operations: things are going to change. The problem is, nobody knows quite how they will change.

What to expect

Over the next few years, you can expect to see a substantial number of lawsuits stemming primarily from marijuana in the workplace. Employees may think that marijuana is legal in the workplace simply because the laws are changing. That’s not necessarily the case. It definitely isn’t the case for some heavy industrial jobs, transportation, or federal employees. A lot of labor laws “discourage” the use of drugs in the workplace but don’t take a hard line on them.

From an employer perspective, consider this: the number of marijuana users nationwide is around 15 percent of the population. In states where it is fully legal, that number jumps to almost 25 percent. If you are an employer, could you afford to automatically rule out new hires who test positive for marijuana? Probably not. If you did, you may run the risk of never even finding anyone who can or will work for you as a result. That puts you in a bind. Especially if other companies have more lenient policies.

The dark side

What happens if there is an accident? Do you test the person who caused it? If you do, then shouldn’t you also test the witness and even the victim as well? The way marijuana is metabolized doesn’t always make it obvious when someone is using, especially on the same day. Cheesy fingers from tortilla chips and red eyes don’t count as evidence. What will OSHA do? How will they defend users? What if someone still has marijuana in their system from the weekend but didn’t smoke on the day in question? There are just too many questions and not enough answers.

So what should you do? Well, the answer is simple but the execution is not. You should conduct a thorough review of your drug policy and consider some of these things before you actually need to start enforcing them. Otherwise you will be caught holding the bag when the laws change. Where is the “line” for you and your company? If there is no “line” yet, you need to figure out what your own line is and go from there.

Sterling can help. Contact us or learn more about this specialty of Sterling’s.