Because we at Bostec are in the business of advising employers on workplace policies regarding marijuana, we spend a lot of time keeping up to speed on the current medical knowledge regarding this drug.
The truth is, though, that a lot of the data are still in flux. As more research is done on marijuana’s positive and negative effects on the human body, standards are changing regarding what employers do and do not allow their employees to do.
For example, consider the question “how long do the effects of marijuana last?” The answer isn’t simple; it’s elusive and debatable as testing continues. Most employers, therefore, simply don’t want any tests to show positive at all — they often prefer to ban marijuana completely than try to figure out how much to allow. Add to that the fact that it’s tough to accurately estimate the drug’s elimination rate — the time it takes to completely leave the body — and you can understand why there isn’t one standard workplace policy governing marijuana use.
That said, here are some facts to consider when devising workplace policies for marijuana, as compiled by the Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association:
- Marijuana is not harmless. Marijuana smoke contains more carcinogens than tobacco smoke, and its use has been associated with increased risks of heart disease, lung disease, cancer, mental illness and strokes. Additionally, research shows that the structural brain change caused by marijuana is permanent; when adolescents and young adults use marijuana – including only casually – IQ points are lost for good. Overall, we might not be able to say exactly how harmful marijuana is, but we do know that it’s not without effect.
- The “high” lasts longer than just a few hours. In fact, repeated studies show that the effects of marijuana last 24 hours or more — and, typically, people are not even aware that they’re still impaired.
- Marijuana can be addictive. The data show that one in six adolescent users will become dependent, and one in 10 adult users will become so dependent they’ll require treatment. When workplaces consider the long-term health of their workers, they often can’t help but take this into account.
There’s much more to be learned, too. For more info regarding what research is showing about marijuana and its effects on the body, especially as it relates to workplace drug policies, click on the DATIA report linked above or contact Bostec. We have been helping businesses both large and small create and implement their workplace drug policies for years.