With the legalization of marijuana, drug testing is going through a serious transition phase. Many employers are foregoing drug testing because of the widespread use of marijuana in America, and some employees probably think they won't have to go to a collection site and get tested.
Now, the publication VT Digger has taken a look at how drug testing may or may not change in Vermont. In Vermont, marijuana is about to become legal, and as this report explains, "With the recreational use of marijuana becoming legal [soon], the Vermont Attorney General's Office is offering some advice to employers on how to deal with the change in the law. The bottom line: Don't do anything differently."
As the Assistant Attorney General explains, "Very little is changing. In terms of drug testing, employers can still drug test for marijuana consistent with existing law."
Of course, there have been questions about drug testing employees when the laws change, and the Attorney General released a guidebook on how employers should approach this in the age of legal marijuana. Starting this summer on July 1, according to Act 86, Vermont law will allow people 21 or older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. You can also cultivate two full-grown or "mature" marijuana plants and two developing or "immature" pot plants.
As the Assistant Attorney General explained, "The intent of our guidance was to essentially set forth what Act 86 does do, but then remind employers of existing laws and what their existing rights and obligations are."
The Rules of Drug Testing Employees
When it comes to drug testing employees, even with marijuana finally becoming legal, employers will have to obey the following guidelines. First of all, the employer has to have probable cause to believe their employee is taking or is under the influence of a drug while working. The employer also has to provide a rehab program the worker can go to if he does indeed have a drug problem. If an employee goes to a collection site and tests positive, the employee won't be fired if he agrees to go to rehab.
Act 86 further explains, "Although most employers do not have policies addressing what employees do outside the workplace – especially what they do in the privacy of their own homes – the new law makes clear that if an employer did have a zero-tolerance policy for marijuana use both on and off the clock, an employee fired for violating the policy could not use Act 86 as a basis for suing the employer."
As VT Digger reports, some companies are still federally required to drug test their employees and hold them accountable for marijuana, like the trucking industry. One trucking company owner in Vermont says that any driver working for him "can't have it in their system. The one thing we have to keep preaching to those guys is that it stays in your system up to 30 days. [The laws] shouldn't be any different than it is now…They know their job depends on it."
How People Consume Marijuana
Marijuana can be consumed in four ways:
Consuming marijuana through smoking or vaporizing is the fastest — and the most common — method people use.
When inhaled, a majority of the cannabinoids — the compound that’s responsible for providing relief to a number of symptoms, including pain and nausea — enters the body through the lungs, and is then distributed to the bloodstream. Many prefer to use this method because it produces faster effects compared to other methods.
Another way to ingest marijuana is orally, through edibles, capsules, oils, or tinctures. Although it takes more time for the substance to get into the system — about 30 minutes or more — the effects are said to be stronger. This method is often used for medical marijuana.
There are a large number of blood vessels inside the mouth that can absorb the compound in marijuana. Thus, products for sublingual ingestion were created. Dissolvable strips, sprays, and lozenges containing cannabinoids are only some of the products available for sublingual consumption.
Marijuana can be applied through balms, salves, and lotions. This is often done to relieve pain and inflammation.
Unlike the first three methods, a topical application does not allow enough cannabinoids to enter the bloodstream and the brain to get high. Furthermore, the compounds used for topical products are non-psychoactive. Thus, they are unlikely to cause intoxication or addiction.
Marijuana in the Workplace
At present, the only method for taking marijuana that's least likely to affect a person's brain function is a topical application. The other three make one vulnerable to the negative effects of the drug. For this reason, it's still recommended to conduct pre-employment and random drug tests within your organization, even if the drug has been legalized in the state where you do business.
Employees under the influence of drugs like marijuana are more prone to causing a number of problems at work. Here are some examples:
Tardiness, absenteeism, and work-related errors are some of the effects of illicit substances. All these can lower your employees' productivity and, as a result, affect your company's overall performance.
Conflict Within the Organization
People under the influence may experience bouts of depression, anxiety, and abrupt changes in mood. This can affect the way they interact with co-workers and superiors, which can cause misunderstandings and — worse — fights.
Conflicts can lower employee morale and result in an increase in employee resignations and turnover. Moreover, it can affect not only the parties involved but the company as a whole.
Impaired judgment and lack of coordination — which are some of the more common effects of drug abuse — may increase the risk of accidents. Working under the influence, especially for those in safety-sensitive positions, can bring harm not only to the employee who ingested drugs, but also to his or her co-workers, clients, and even the public.
The negative effects of drug use and abuse far are undeniable. This is the reason why it's important to keep your workplace safe and drug-free.
If you're interested in ordering drug testing for your staff or need help with your drug-free workplace policy and program, contact US Drug Test Centers today.