The US government is refusing to bow to peer pressure. Twenty five states have already passed laws to allow some kind of medical marijuana use, four others and the District of Columbia let people smoke for fun, and nine more have issues relating to the drug on this year’s ballot. Even so, the Drug Enforcement Administration recently announced it is rejecting requests to move marijuana from the Schedule I list of highly addictive drugs down to a Schedule II.
As a Schedule I drug, marijuana is listed alongside drugs like heroin, LSD and Ecstasy. These are considered substances with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. As far as the Federal government is concerned, doctors may not prescribe these drugs, despite legalization at the state level, and researchers cannot really study them. This is where the DEA is making a change. While the government still maintains that the drug’s therapeutic value has not been scientifically proven, the DEA will allow more universities to grow the plant and conduct studies on its possible benefits. The DEA would only consider reclassification of marijuana if these studies provide concrete data to prove it is safe and effective as a medicine.
So what does this mean for business owners?
Which side of this fight should business owners be on? Your first thought might be, “If marijuana is legal we can save money because we won’t have to test for it anymore!” This would be a very short sighted approach.
The small cost of testing for marijuana pales in comparison with the costs that come along with drug use in the workplace.
Those costs include:
Loss of Productivity – According to a study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), substance users have increased tardiness and sleeping on the job. They also tend to have poor decision making skills, show lack of efficiency and lower the morale of co-workers.
Safety – An average worker’s compensation claim costs an employer $25,000. Damage to the employer’s reputation caused by a high profile accident will cause those costs to soar.
Turnover and Weaker Candidate Pool – According to the same SAMHSA study, current marijuana use has increased for both young adults (18 to 25) and adults (26 and older). These current drug users are likely a large percentage of your candidate pool. According to a study conducted by the Center for American Progress, drug users have an average of three jobs a year. They estimate the cost of that turn-over is as much as 213% of a position’s salary.
So, when asked if an employer would be better off if marijuana becomes legal, our answer has to be no. But, regardless of what WE think, the laws are changing and your company needs to be ready. The most important thing you can do is to review your policy to ensure it is up to date, educate your managers, supervisors and employees on the company policy regarding marijuana use on and off duty and continue to test. For employers it is your right, and your responsibly when protecting your reputation and your bottom line.