Ask the Expert: Medical Marijuana in the Workplace


In our latest issue of Ask the Expert, presented by the team of industry experts at EHS Hero®, we look at a subscriber’s recent question about medical marijuana in the workplace. See what the experts had to say.

Q: I am looking for a guide on medical marijuana use in the workplace. Maine recently passed legislation legalizing the use of marijuana. I would be happy to receive information on this topic.

While the legalization of marijuana hasn’t generally required employers to consider use among their workforce, that could be changing. Some states have anti-discrimination laws for the disabled that include protections for medical marijuana users, and some already have or will soon have bans on pre-employment drug testing.

OSHA’s general duty requires employers to maintain safe workplaces. OSHA specifically includes impairment from drugs (legal, prescribed, or illegal) as a potentially preventable workplace hazard. It is therefore necessary to prevent an impaired employee, especially with a motor vehicle, from injuring himself, colleagues or the public. And employers must identify all safety-sensitive jobs in the workplace — like working with moving machinery or driving company vehicles — and exclude medical marijuana users from those jobs, even if they show no signs of impairment and never use the drug during work hours.

In addition, the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act requires drug and alcohol testing of safety-sensitive transportation workers in the airline, trucking, railroad, transit, pipeline and other transportation industries.

A clearly articulated drug and alcohol policy is an important step for employers who want to protect their interests and avoid liability. Questions to be addressed include:

  • Is there a ban on pre-employment tests in your area?
  • Are there any restrictions on random drug testing?
  • Does your area have anti-discrimination laws for medical marijuana cardholders?
  • Does your state have relevant data protection regulations?
  • What legal action can you take if an employee tests positive?

There are several resources on BLR that also cover the topic:

Federal and State Department: Alcohol and Drugs:

Marijuana in the Workplace: – look-at-legal/

7-Minute Safety Trainer: Prescription Drugs and Medical Marijuana: Marijuana 7 Minutes/

Drug and Alcohol Testing: What Managers Need to Know: – What-supervisors-must-/


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