Employers, including small businesses, should put in place employee drug policies to deal with legalized marijuana.
Employee drug use, which includes marijuana, costs businesses more than $129 billion a year in lost revenue, and can cost a small business up to $7,000 a month in lost productivity, according to Jo McGuire, director of compliance and corporate training at Conspire!, a Colorado Springs, Colo., drug testing company.
“For a small business owner, that can knock the wind out of their sails,” said McQuire who spoke on the topic of Marijuana and Workplace Challenges at the Chamber of Commerce lunch at the Gold Dust West Friday. “That’s why we recommend that employers have a drug and alcohol policy.”
McQuire said the key is to have a written policy, communicate it effectively to all employees and enforce it uniformly.
She said if a business plans to do random testing, for example, the business must be consistent and not discriminate.
If an employer suspects an employee of being under the influence of marijuana, then test them for cause, McGuire said.
“If you’re going to call it a random test, then test everyone,” she said. “Otherwise, test someone for reasonable suspicion.”
She said the Colorado Supreme Court has routinely ruled on the side of employers when the employer has had a well-documented and consistently applied drug policy.
Colorado has legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use.
Nevada has legalized medical marijuana and a petition to legalize recreational pot as well will be on the ballot in this fall’s election.
McQuire also warned businesses not to take marijuana lightly.
“We’re talking about a completely different product than in Cheech and Chong’s day,” she said.
In what she called the Woodstock days, marijuana contained 2 to 3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the ingredient that produces the high.
Now, with legalization and the proliferation of ways to ingest pot, THC levels are routinely 20 to 30 percent and even as high as 90 percent, she said.
“Now we have derivatives and byproducts,” said McQuire. “I don’t think these things should even be called marijuana.”
The new delivery methods for marijuana make it hard to monitor, too.
Edibles such as granola bars and chocolate bars look like any other snack, she said.
And vaping pot doesn’t smell so employees can take a break, use a vape pen and go undetected.
Marijuana is still classified as a schedule 1 drug and its use is prohibited by federal law.
But the federal government essentially has turned a blind eye to states actions, allowing pot to be legalized for both medical and recreational uses at the state level.
“We’re a at very weird place with respect to how we deal with marijuana,” said Jason Woodbury, Carson City district attorney, who introduced McGuire at the luncheon. “The options and answers used to be pretty clear, but we’re in very different place now.”