Actually, it will likely be good for MY business, but definitely bad for most workplaces.

Employers are required to provide a safe workplace. Go ask OSHA. Employers want productive employees too. They want employees who show up to work – on time. And employees who do not steal to support a drug habit.

Substance abusers are generally problematic employees. This is why more than half of U.S. employers drug test.

Now employers are confused. And worried.

If employers hire workers who use marijuana, then they have hired someone who is more likely to have a workplace accident, or to injure another employee. In other words, they have hired a dangerous employee. Employers are liable for the actions of dangerous employees, and should a drug user injure a co-worker, the employer is likely on the hook for negligent hiring. End result: a workers’ compensation claim that may have been prevented, an injury that could have been prevented, and a potential a lawsuit, which also could have been prevented.

If employers prohibit marijuana in a state where its use is protected, employers may face litigation. This is what happened last year in Massachusetts (Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing, LLC). Even if employers win in court, as most have, they have legal costs they would rather not incur. Newer state laws in Massachusetts, Maine and Connecticut have fewer employer protections than most.

To my way of thinking, ensuring a safe workplace should be the primary focus, and drug testing is a key component of monitoring workplace safety.

Cannabis Use Disorder is “A Thing.” And it has costs.

A 2015 Psychology Today article states that 30% of persons who used marijuana in the past year were categorized as having Cannabis Use Disorder.

Persons with Severe CUD benefit most from inpatient stays of approximately 25-35 days, followed by a several months of outpatient treatment.

Not only do employers lose employees who seek treatment, but their insurance carriers get to pay for it. And … the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that relapse rates for addiction range from 40 percent to 60 percent.

What is Impairment?

Most agree that prohibiting impairment at work is fair. The problem is that not only can marijuana test positive long after use, it also causes impairment long after the high is gone.

A 1985 Stanford University study (using much weaker marijuana than what is available today) determined that 24 hours after marijuana use pilots have trouble landing planes safely. Fortunately, the study was done on a flight simulator. AND, none of the pilots reported any awareness of impairment.

A more recent experiment at the University of Iowa — also conducted on a simulator — tested drivers after using marijuana and alcohol. Some heavy marijuana users had detectable THC in their body for nearly a month, and they performed some tasks worse up to three weeks after they last consumed marijuana.

Impaired workers are a hazard to themselves, co-workers and the general public.

Legal Marijuana in Illinois is Inevitable. Let’s not make employers pay for it.

In a recent “hearing” online a few weeks ago regarding HB2353 and SB0316 it was clear that legislators in Springfield have their minds made up. They believe legal marijuana in Illinois will generate much-needed tax revenue and their blinders prevent them from seeing the costs. That’s easy when it’s not your money.

Safety and productivity cannot be compromised in the workplace. Drug-free workplace policies send a clear message that safety and quality work are critical priorities.  Legislators are encouraged to ensure safety in the workplace by including language in marijuana laws that clearly provides for employers’ rights to ensure a drug-free workplace, thus minimizing future litigation, fines and penalties.

Tim Thoelecke, Jr. is CEO and Founder of InOut Labs, a national provider of employee drug testing services.

Submitted to the Chicago Tribune as a Op Ed piece in January, 2018