From 2001 to 2013, the percentage of the American population that uses marijuana has gone from 4.1 percent to 9.5 percent. The percentage of Americans who see using marijuana as a threat to their health dropped from 38 percent in 2002 to 26.5 percent in 2014. Right now, marijuana use is legal in 23 states, with four of those states allowing recreational use. As marijuana becomes more accepted by state lawmakers, more people are using it and the image of marijuana is significantly improving.
It seems as though marijuana laws are changing quickly, and it is important for the construction industry to keep pace with the changes. Workplace safety is a concern of every employer, and construction safety is threatened when workers do not understand the new marijuana laws and come to work incapacitated. Even in states that allow medicinal marijuana, it is still important for construction companies to be familiar with the laws and convey those laws clearly to their employees.
Marijuana Laws About Medicinal Usage Purposes
Minnesota, Delaware, and Arizona are the only three states in the country that make it illegal for companies to fire employees for using medicinal marijuana. In every other state where marijuana is legal for either medicinal or recreational use, employers are allowed to create policies that work to prevent workers from coming to work under the influence of the drug. In some states that have legalized marijuana, there are statutes that allow companies with zero tolerance drug policies to terminate or deny employment of people who use medical marijuana.
State Versus Federal Laws
While some states have legalized marijuana in some form, the federal government still has marijuana listed as a schedule 1 illegal substance with no medical value. One of the ironic parts of that statement is that the District of Columbia is one of the parts of the United States that has legalized medicinal marijuana.
If the federal government wanted to, it could make marijuana-related arrests in any state that has legalized the drug in any way. The lack of resources in the Department of Justice prevents the government from cracking down on violators and putting a stop to any type of marijuana use. But the federal government still has ways of eliminating marijuana use, even in the states where it is legal.
Any construction worker who is working on a project funded by the federal government is subject to random drug tests and could be terminated if marijuana is found in their system. This includes marijuana that is used during the worker’s non-working hours and marijuana used for medicinal purposes. Contractors working on federal contracts for any type of work are all working in a drug-free workplace and should avoid marijuana use of any kind.
The Changes To Construction Safety
The biggest problem the construction industry is running into when it comes to marijuana is the speed at which laws are changing. States are legalizing medicinal marijuana at a rapid pace, and many states are considering legalizing recreational marijuana as well. The only sure thing construction companies know is that they need to
have a zero tolerance policy for marijuana if they want to work on federal jobs.
In order to maintain construction safety, companies now need to start including specific safety and employment policies that deal with marijuana. Construction is not a trade that you want to attempt to do while incapacitated in any way, especially if you are interested in maintaining workplace safety. Marijuana has a very strong ability to impair the judgment and actions of a construction worker. Because of this, the construction industry is working hard to understand the laws and create policies that stay within legal guidelines.
Thinking Of Marijuana Usage As You Would Drinking While Working
As far as workplace safety goes, workers need to think about marijuana in the same way they think about alcohol. They know that alcohol impairs their judgment, and that is why alcohol is banned on every worksite in the country. Marijuana has the same ability to impair a worker and create an unsafe work environment. This is why employees need to think twice about using marijuana when it could impair their ability to work.
Construction companies need to develop concrete policies when it comes to marijuana and then enforce those policies within the legal boundaries of state laws. The most important thing for construction companies to do is to stay up to date on the marijuana laws in the states where they work and, make sure that their policies will be effective at maintaining workplace safety for every worker.