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There has been a broiling contest between a ubiquitous idea of marijuana having countless health benefits and the lack of scientific data to back up the same. That has been the scenario for quite long now. However, on August 1, 2017, people sensed the first speck of the possibility of legalization of marijuana by the government.

Senator Cory Booker introduced The Marijuana Justice Act on August 1, 2017, which demanded the nationwide legalization of marijuana. Again, Canada legalized marijuana on 17 October 2018, and with that, it became the second country to allow recreational usage of marijuana. Hence, the possibility doesn’t appear that far-fetched anymore, now does it?

With new laws come new challenges that demand people from various walks of life to take steps to suit the changes. One such group of individuals are Heath Resource (HR) professionals who people would be looking up to trying to clear queries arising from marijuana legalization in a workplace.

We write this article to provide the best tips for HR professionals in connection to this shifting scenario. But first, let’s run our eyes quickly through the main challenges the HR professionals are expected to face.

Maintaining Safety at Work

It doesn’t matter how many health benefits cannabis is proven to have, you can’t deny that it’s an intoxicant. Now that doesn’t exactly help the cause of safety for employees in industries like construction, public transit, and many more. Therefore policies prohibiting reckless consumption of marijuana need to be put in place.

Employer’s Responsibility Towards Employees

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 made it necessary for employers to accommodate their employees on grounds such as physical and mental disabilities. With the legalization of marijuana, there would be higher odds of abuse of the same law. One can also expect a surge in the number of such accommodation requests.

Medical Coverage of Cannabis

In cases where employers are required to reimburse the medical expenses and for that matter medicinal marijuana expenses of an injured employee, it would be tough to distinguish employees who qualify for it from them who don’t. There is also a potential for increased accusations of employer’s neglect.

Therefore, with the increasing marijuana user demand, HR professionals should be ready to tackle inquiries concerning cannabis coverage. Canadian insurance companies can help you form a picture of the probable outcome.

Definition of Impairment

Once marijuana becomes legal, companies may no longer see prescribed and recorded usage of marijuana by an employee on the job as an impairment. While it may seem justified to hold recreational marijuana on the same accord as that of alcohol and other such intoxicants, there isn’t yet clarity on how to define impairment regarding marijuana in the workplace.

The new definition of impairment will help employers and employees know what is acceptable and what can lead to termination. We recommended that HR professionals be ready to define impairment for the same.

Drug Tests

Health resource departments may often require to examine the levels of impairment in a workplace for employers to ensure employees’ safety. Therefore introducing drug test policies is both a necessity and difficulty.

Some may deem drug tests at a workplace as an invasion of privacy which is against an employee’s rights — another reason to keep a keen eye on what the HR professionals have got to say.

What Can Be Done?

Ever since Canada legalized marijuana, data has shown a steep upward trend in the number of medicinal marijuana users. The situation wouldn’t be very different anywhere else. This calls for the HR department to be ready to adapt to the new state of affairs. Below are a few steps that you can adopt as an HR professional to keep marijuana at a workplace in check.

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Clearing Doubts

We recommend that you don’t put down any queries regarding medical marijuana use by the employees. Instead, ask him or her to describe any accommodations needed. You also need to respect the employees’ right to privacy on matters concerning medical issues.

You, however, have the right to know about any medication an employee has been taking that might affect the employee’s efficiency at work.

No Marijuana During Office Hours

It doesn’t matter if marijuana gets legalized, all employers need to impose stringent rules on their employees to make them come to their job sober. This wouldn’t be too tough to enforce on office employees.

But, for employees who spend a more significant part of if not all their hours in the field (like security guards, delivery drivers, and so on) it could be a tough job to monitor them. Therefore, you need to be able to trust them.

Hold Discussions on Abuse

Even though marijuana is not as addictive as hard drugs, it can cause considerable addiction problems in some cases. As a result, it can negatively impact the performance of the person concerned at his work. On the brighter side, legalization of marijuana may pave the way for honest conversations about addiction.

It is expected of an employer and is in his best interest to assist any employee who is having troubles with a drug habit. Moreover, a higher number of workers are expected to come clean about their addictions without fear of legal prosecution.

Medical Use of Marijuana

Employers should insist on employees to cautiously use medical marijuana and avoid marijuana plant flowers in cases where they are dependent on it to be able to tolerate pain and function well. Some state laws follow a zero-tolerance policy whereas others accommodate medical marijuana use.

It’s up to an employee and an employer to responsibly consume marijuana and accommodate the employee’s ethical requirements respectively.

Marijuana During Lunch and Breaks

Employers would want to respect their employees’ privacy during breaks. But an employer also has to ensure the employees’ prompt return from breaks. Employers can and must demand from the employees to give their best at work.

Similarly, the employees are expected not to underestimate their job which may happen when under the effect of psychoactive agents.

Medical Marijuana Reimbursement

Employers should be well versed in the benefits rendered by medical marijuana coverage. HR professionals should work together with insurance companies to reassess the restrictions that currently govern marijuana usage.

Drug Testing

Medical marijuana will only keep gaining scientific and legal base. Additionally, recreational use of marijuana is not a distant possibility anymore. As a result, it has become more critical for employers to keep revising drug testing policies. Until a clear definition of impairment is available, we recommend you to keep yourselves updated on the latest technology for drug testing.

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Employers must consider medical and recreational marijuana as two different streams. This will help employers determine when to accommodate marijuana use for medical purposes. The above steps will help lessen confusion and increase transparency regarding marijuana regulation.

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