Cannabis legalization has raced across the country in the last several years, and marijuana is legal for recreational use in 18 states and medical use in 37. Opinions are also shifting, with 68% of the country supporting legalization and many believing that federal legalization is imminent.
Last year Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that makes California the seventh state in the U.S. that does not allow employers to discriminate against workers who smoke weed “off the job and away from the workplace.” The law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2024. The law prohibits employers from making hiring, firing, or other employment decisions based on a drug test.
The law makes a lot of sense since drug testing does not detect impairment. After all, you wouldn’t fire an employee because you found out they drank a beer over the weekend. However, that’s precisely how many organizations currently treat marijuana use. Depending on the testing method, marijuana can be detected in users’ systems for weeks or even months after use.
If you drug test a medical user, you will undoubtedly find it in their systems. However, if you attempt to fire them for that reason, you may now run into legal issues. Laws in twenty-two states prohibit employers from discriminating against workers based on their use of medical marijuana, and seven states, including California, have passed laws protecting the employment rights of recreational marijuana users.
How Zero-Tolerance Drug Policies Hurt Business
Marijuana is used socially, like alcohol. In fact, according to a recent Gallup survey, marijuana use is almost as common as alcohol, with 60% of U.S. adults saying they drink alcoholic beverages and 49% saying they use marijuana.
Zero-Tolerance drug policies have been ineffective as a deterrent and affecting businesses’ ability to attract and retain talent. For example, according to industry experts, marijuana testing for truck drivers has become a leading cause of the growing national truckers shortage.
Since zero-tolerance drug policies for marijuana are becoming no longer enforceable or practical for most businesses, a new approach is needed. That’s why shifting from drug testing to impairment detection from all causes is the most intelligent move forward.
Marijuana Is Not Alcohol
Many people think workplace marijuana use can be handled like alcohol with a legal limit and a quick test to detect offenders.
Alcohol breathalyzers measure the concentration of alcohol in the blood (BAC). Although that’s still not an impairment measure, they are effective because the body metabolizes alcohol quickly, and any reading indicates recent drinking. Furthermore, based on many years of research, data correlating BAC and impairment is available, and a reasonable legal limit has been established.
That’s not the case with marijuana. Cannabis breathalyzers are under development, and they can detect THC in breath samples, but no data correlating THC level in breath and impairment is available, and because of the way Marijuana is metabolized, it’s not clear that a quantifiable correlation can be established.
Companies Are Too Focused on Drugs as the Cause of Impairment
According to The National Safety Council, workplace impairment is the inability to function normally or safely for various reasons. While drugs and alcohol use may be the first thing that pops into people’s minds when they think of impairment, they are one of many. In addition, fatigue, medical conditions, medications, and stress can also play a significant role in employee alertness and their ability to do their job safely and effectively.
Regardless of the source, impairment can have significant negative consequences for everyone involved. Unfortunately, many companies falsely assume drug use is the main cause of worker impairment.
Workplace Impairment Detection
Pupillary Analysis Detects All Cause Impairment
They say that the eyes are a window into the brain. Doctors use pupillary analysis to check brain activity and neurological conditions and monitor the effect of drugs because it is a proven technique to analyze brain functionality.
Fig 1: Pupillary analysis in the hospital
SOBEREYE has developed an automated pupillary analysis solution for workplace use. The non-invasive impairment risk detection tool allows employees to test themselves before and/or during their working shift. Employees hold the testing device up to their eyes, which measures alterations in pupillary response to detect impairment risk from any cause, including medications, drugs, alcohol, fatigue, sleep deprivation, and/or illness.
Fig 2: SOBEREYE testing device
With SOBEREYE, workers know immediately if they are at risk of being impaired and a danger to themselves, the company, or others. Valuable information that helps to prevent accidents.
Fig 3: Testing for impairment on the job with SOBEREYE
AN INNOVATIVE APPROACH
It’s time to look at the problem with an open mind and address it with an innovative approach, shifting the narrative from “We are a drug-free workplace” that requires a policing attitude to “We are an impairment-free workplace” that is implemented in cooperation with the workforce.
Since its introduction in 2018, SOBEREYE has helped thousands of employees stay safe on the job with fairness and respect.
Check www.sobereye.com to learn more about how SOBEREYE can help you create a safer workplace.