Cannabis Impairment in the Workplace

The spread of cannabis legalization in the states is creating a new issue for employers – what kind of guidelines to set for its use to prevent it from impairing employees and impacting their productivity.

Some employers are simply maintaining a zero-tolerance policy and not allowing use during work or away from work. But in response to the changing legal landscape, other companies are softening their policies and allowing use if it does not affect a worker’s performance.

The Problem with Cannabis

But here a problem arises because there is no good testing yet for determining if a person is impaired from using cannabis. There’s also not a scientific way to define impairment.

Cannabis is not like alcohol which is soluble in water. Because it is water soluble, the amount of alcohol in a person’s body can be measured to determine impairment. Cannabis is stored in the body’s fat cells and is released over a longer period of time. So, a person can take cannabis and still have it in their body days or even weeks later, with no impairment.

Cannabis Impairment Testing Methods

There are several methods of testing for cannabis now in use. They include hair, saliva, urine and blood testing. But the procedures are time-consuming, cumbersome, and cannot quickly give any indication whether the person is impaired. In fact, they cannot conclusively determine if a person is impaired at all.

New tests, however, are being developed. The Michigan State Police is using one method. It is similar to a breathalyzer test used to check for alcohol in the blood. The test gives a positive or negative indication for cannabis.

Developers of another test are claiming that it can measure the exact level of THC in a person’s body in 10 minutes.

The Meaning of Impairment

Even if you have a test that can give you exact amounts of THC in the body, there is no agreement yet on how those levels relate to impairment in a medical or legal context. Medical and legal authorities just don’t know yet what amount of THC causes impairment or even what it means to be impaired.

Legal experts advise companies to monitor what states are doing with legalizing cannabis and court decisions involving cannabis in the workplace.

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