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Legalized cannabis and the potential impact on workplaces

On Behalf of | Jul 26, 2023 | Workers' Compensation

As cannabis legalization continues to spread nationwide, the impact on workplaces dealing with a growing number of staff members under the influence continues to grow. Challenges exist in the increasing use and the effect on employees, not to mention their ability to stay productive and effective in their work roles.

Currently, cannabis is first in the frequency of illicit drug use, accounting for approximately 43.5 million of those 12 and older using the medicine, according to a 2018 study. Even more alarming, eighteen percent work full-time, and 21 percent are part-timers. Those impaired staff members are at risk of more than errors but injuries.

Studies bring minimal clarity

Data remains scarce. Anecdotal information exists that working under the influence creates disorientation, impaired judgment, lack of concentration, and negative impacts on motor skills. The results range from decision-making delays and memory/attention deficits.

A study by The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) uncovered a 55 percent increase in industrial accidents, an 85 percent increase in injuries, and absenteeism for employee testing positive for marijuana at 75 percent.

A recent National Safety Council (NSC) position statement in 2019 revealed effects on psychomotor skills and cognitive ability. Ultimately, they found that no level of cannabis exists where the employee would be safe or proficient in safety-sensitive job roles.

Injuries caused by illegal marijuana

The impact on workers’ compensation cannot be ignored, particularly when an employee tests positive for marijuana that is state-approved or physician recommended at the time of the accident. The reimbursement component presents numerous challenges when using a legalized drug results in work-related injury claims.

Legalized marijuana remains a work in progress, with employers scrambling to find a balance between use and the impact on their operations.