Marijuana, Legalization and the Workplace

A recent survey indicates there is more workplace drug use than in the last 12 years and highest in states that have legalized marijuana.

A recent survey indicates there is more workplace drug use than in the last 12 years and highest in states that have legalized marijuana.

By Scott Chipman

This year American workers tested positive for illicit drugs at the highest rate in 12 years with marijuana positivity increasing 75%. Being in construction and manufacturing business for over 40 years I know well the challenges of finding, training, and maintaining an effective workforce. There is also the demand for creating and maintaining a safe workplace. None of these business demands are assisted by having marijuana legalized.

In 1996 California voters were duped with Prop 215 into voting for legalizing “medical” marijuana. We thought we were just voting to allow seriously ill and dying individuals to use marijuana. What we got was the ability to get any amount of marijuana for any “medical” reason. This allowed marijuana to be “normalized” in our society, for drug dealers to make a lot of money and for the industry to sell legalization and Prop 64 to the voters.

What is the difference between “medi” pot and drug cartel marijuana? Nothing. What pharmaceutical protocols are in place with getting a medical recommendation (there is no prescription for marijuana) for using and purchasing marijuana? I have received 3 “medi” pot recommendations to test the system and I know – there are none.  Any 18 year old can get a recommendation for pot for virtually any reason and buy as much as they want, as often as they want, for as long as they want. This makes diversion of the drug to others commonplace. A community member facetimed with a “doctor” for 3 minutes to get a marijuana recommendation for “anxiety while driving”. “Medical” marijuana would be a joke if it weren’t for the fact that the results aren’t funny. They are dangerous.

Today’s marijuana is 10-40 times stronger (more concentrated THC – the active ingredient that makes you high) today than it was in the ‘60s and ‘70s when it was 2-3% THC. Edibles, dabbing, and hash oil products can be 50-90% THC. The human brain is not fully developed until about age 25. The younger you begin use the more likely you will become addicted and the greater the impacts on the brain. However, even casual use creates negative impacts and dangers.

Marijuana impacts the hippocampus, the decision making section of the brain. This negatively impacts perception of space and time and of oneself. It impairs short term memory, narrows peripheral vision, and slows reaction times. This is a serious concern for employers and jeopardizes work place safety and efficiency. Marijuana users are more likely to miss work or have an injury incident in the workplace. A recent survey indicates there is more workplace drug use than in the last 12 years and highest in states that have legalized marijuana.

Drugged driving has now eclipsed drunk driving as a cause for traffic fatalities and marijuana impaired drivers account for over 30% of those. Washington state marijuana related traffic fatalities more than doubled in the year after legalization.

So, what can and should we do?

Although marijuana has been “legalized” in California it is not legal federally and there appears to be ongoing consideration for restoring federal enforcement of drug laws. We don’t recommend arresting users (that hasn’t been happening for decades) but we do recommend enforcing federal laws against commercial operations, drug dealers, and traffickers. We also recommend a massive national informational campaign on marijuana. Almost no one has accurate facts about marijuana and the dangers it poses for mental and physical health and public safety. Contact your senator and congressman and US attorney.

Also, state law allows for every city and county to use land use controls to eliminate the drug dealing within that jurisdiction. Business people and industry leaders should be involved and speaking out for their elected officials to oppose institutionalizing marijuana drug dealing and the commercial operations around pot. This is a lawless industry that profiteers on addiction and impairment. Jurisdictions that have tried to “regulate” have found it near impossible. The best course is to create ordinances that clearly eliminate and exclude the industry from setting up shop.

In addition, we as business people need to make it clear to our employees and business associates that we have zero tolerance for drug use including marijuana use. State law, for now, allows employers to give drug tests. We should make it clear that if you are using drugs you are not welcome in our workforce and conduct the tests needed to insure a safe workplace.

Finally, let’s learn a lesson from the unwitting votes for marijuana legalization. Business people and leaders need to be involved and outspoken on political issues that impact the ability to conduct business, hire affective workers and provide employment. We should be contributing financially and with our voices to see that American business, our economy, our health and our safety are protected.

Scott Chipman is a 42 year business owner and volunteers as the Southern California Chair of Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana