When the public perceives drugs to be dangerous, usage declines. When people perceive them to be less risky, usage increases. It’s logical, but somebody actually studied it and published a report on it. (2012 Monitoring The Future survey)

A 2013 Gallup poll finds that 58% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana use. Other surveys aren’t that high, but all show a dramatic decrease in the perception of risk.

Marijuana will be “medicine” in Illinois in 2014. Surely there will be people who get legitimate relief for certain medical conditions. But there will be many, many, MANY more, who buy marijuana permits who shouldn’t really qualify, though that’s beside the point. The underlying message is that pot is okay. It’s legit. Its harmful characteristics have been exaggerated for many years. It’s really not that bad. It’s the same as alcohol. That’s the message people hear in the press now, and it’s the message we will continue to hear. It’s the message every small child and every child not yet born will grow up with. They’ll be “native,” just as they are now with smartphones, computers and Netflix.

And marijuana usage will skyrocket.

What does that mean for you and me? Well, some of you might just go out and get yourself some weed, plunk your butt on the couch and eat pizza. Triple pepperoni pizza. You certainly won’t be alone.

But if you’re an employer, you have something to be legitimately concerned about. Worried, even. And it’s time to gird and defend your workplace. It is encouraging that in other states with forms of legalized marijuana the courts have consistently sided with employers’ rights to a safe and drug-free workplace.

Unless you prefer to roll the dice and take your chances with workers comp claims, accidents, sloppily entered data, absenteeism and theft, it’s a good time to review your substance abuse policy. It’s far easier to defend a policy violation if it’s in writing. We can help with this. And if you are not yet random testing existing employees along with your pre-employment tests, this is a good time to start. And if you don’t test anyone, let’s talk.

As people get used to legalized marijuana, there WILL be more users. And most of them WILL work somewhere. You have a choice where they sit: your workplace or at home on the couch.