Editorial

Are workplace drug policies obsolete?

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

At last report, organizers of the petition drive to legalize medical marijuana in Nebraska was doing well, destined to reach the goal of going on the fall 2020 ballot.

According to a Gallup survey, 64 percent of us support legalization of marijuana.

Marijuana is still classified as an illegal substance under federal law, but more and more states are moving toward medical or recreational use, and prohibiting employers from testing for marijuana at the pre-employment stage and from firing an employee for an initial positive drug test.

With low unemployment, itís a workerís market, with many HR departments dropping restrictive pre-employment drug testing along with old prehire screening methods such as weight, physical agility and English language skills.

Colorado and New York, in fact, have made it illegal to discipline and employee for engaging in a legal activity outside of work hours.

On the other hand, few of us would like to share the road with a truck driver who couldnít pass a drug test, or have our gallbladder removed by a surgeon who was addicted to painkillers.

Some overly cautious HR professionals believe OSHA regulations prohibit post-accident drug testing, when, in fact, the rule issued in 2016 allows screening when drug use was likely to have contributed to the incident.

According to a 2016 Surgeon Generalís report, substance abuse costs society more than $400 billion annually in crime, health and lost productivity.

Some 4.2% of 9 million urine tests conducted for U.S. employers in 2016, were positive, the highest since 2004, when it hit 4.5%.

Society and employers have more experience in dealing with alcohol abuse in the workplace, and drug policies can follow many of the same principles.

It will take some time, but a balance must be struck between workplace safety and the reality of todayís workforce.

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