Safety and OSHA News

Prescribed pot compromises safety: What can employers do?

marijuana

Imagine this: One of your employees is on pain medication that could compromise his safety and productivity, as well as that of co-workers. But, because of state law, you have to accommodate the employee. Not only that, but federal law says the pain medication is illegal.

What medication are we talking about? Marijuana.

That’s the case in Oregon, and a business lobbying group is pushing a bill to exempt employers from having to accommodate medical marijuana patients.

House Bill 2497 would allow businesses to terminate employees who test positive for marijuana, even if they are legally authorized to use it for pain management.

Employers would also be notified when a worker applies for a “marijuana card,” under the measure.

Associated Oregon Industries (AOI) sees medical cannabis as a liability for employers.

AOI’s vice-president for government affairs, J.L. Wilson, told The World that many employers have horror stories about employing medical marijuana users and impairment on the job.

Wilson notes that marijuana remains federally illegal, but in Oregon, employers are forced to accommodate those who have been approved to use it for pain.

Wayne Haythorn with Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse says the bill is designed to stir up fear and punish people who need marijuana for pain.

In what situations do doctors approve pot use for pain?

One example: Jude Isaacson had back surgery in 2000 and developed a spinal infection. She was using a wheelchair.

“Cannabis has brought me back,” she said. “I can focus now.”

Dr. Michelle Petrofes who treats six medical marijuana patients says pot isn’t her first line of treatment by any means. She said patients have to have tried every other medication first for pain before she will consider marijuana.

Pain management expert Dr. Daniel Rusu says most patients who request cannabis for pain management don’t qualify for it.

He also believes this battle over marijuana will continue.

How can employers balance compassion for workers in severe pain with their employee drug policies? What do you think is the right course of action? And readers from Oregon, let’s hear from you, especially. You can leave comments in the box below.

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  • Oscar Blanco

    All drugs that may compromise safety in the workplace should not be permitted (legal or otherwise). If you are working in the manufacturing industry (as an example) and are required to run complicated equipment for a living, then any form of drugs may impair you ability to avoid a serious accident. Production should never take precedence over safety. If reasonable accomodations can not be made (this is important), then the employee should be taking FMLA.

  • B

    Washington state has the same ISSUE with Medical MJ. A law for employers is NOT needed. If any medication is required and it impairs safety or productivity then that can and should be addressed. MJ is no different and a new law is not needed. Once again, we have anti drug people over reacting, sturring the brain dead masses to ban MJ.
    The matrix on the drug war is eyeopening and disgusting, come on people, don’t you have anything better to do?

  • Gonzalo Rodriguez

    I am an Oregonian and I believe that folks are not seeing the big picture here. This is not an issue about denying people who need a certain type of medication for pain. This is about workplace safety. I am a safety professional and what I know is that any type of medication that makes someone unable to concentrate 100% on their duties is a danger to themselves and those around them. Would you trust someone on a forklift if you knew they were using some type of meds that made them loopy, sleepy, or unaware of their surroundings? Probably not. So look at what danger can come from the effect of the meds on the individual and not the meds. Typically most meds that are potent have a warning to not operate or work around moving equipment. So why try to make any one med exempt from common safety sense?

  • Brian Browning

    While this is a slight twist to an ongoing problem, our lawyers say we can’t keep an employee
    from working on prescribed drugs that are a lot stronger than pot (hydrocodone). As long as the doctor writes them a release without restrictions, I’ve got to let hem work.

  • don ryan

    I do not believe that medical marijuana should be challenged as a treatment protocol if it is legal
    under the statutes of a state/city/etc.. If that is the case, then any prescription drug that is prescribed
    would/should be treated the same, assuming that prescribed drug has similar effects.

    I belive that there are far more dangers to an individual worker and the business tey work for as a
    result of abusing alcohol, which has a worse effect AND is legal.

    Also, as a person that suffered polio as a child and had a stroke in 2006, I tried marijuana as a way
    to treat my chronic pain and found relief but never experienced any impairment or psychosis as is
    portrayed by anti- marijuana activists.

    Maybe we should resurrect Mayor Laguardias study from many years ago and compare the effects of
    alcohol vs. marijuana, and then make alcohol illegal too.

    It is all about money anyway.
    Alcohol is big business so leave it alone. Also, many police officers/attorneys/judges/etc drink it
    Marijuana is natural and was made illegal to provide yet another opportunity for the government to
    create funds to fuel the legal system and teh attorneys that leech on it.

  • Yvette

    Our company is a structural steel fabricator, our employees lives depend on their ability to “focus” on the task at hand and to perform highly safety sensitive tasks. Our workers depend on each other to work safely – not only for their own safety but for the safety of their co-workers. Their families depend on their co-workers to work safely. Our employees must currently report when they are using any medication which could affect their abilty to perform these safety sensitive duties.

    I hope this bill is passed – I especially like the part about informing the employer when a worker applies for a medical marijuana card.

  • http://www.wdpa.com Rob Niber

    No new laws are needed – I agree with the others. This is no different than any pain medication, prescription or otherwise that warns about affects to your judgement and safety when operating machinery, equipment, etc. and general side effects of those drugs…

    MJ is currently illegal and I would not want any of our employees working around someone who is not all there and properly focused…if the MJ really helps thier pain, do it at home and find a way for that employee to work from home without putting themselves or others in harm’s way.

  • Jon

    1. Who would come up with an idea that a employer should be put in a position where they are required to support the breaking of one law to enforce another?
    2. If a employee is endangering someones life, they should be removed from that position regardless of the reason. – See Oscar Blancos response

  • DMJ

    If MJ is treated like any other drug under employment law then a new law is not required. It appears from the article this is not the case. It looks like a perscription for MJ amounts to an ADA like designation where you have to accomidate a “medical condition”. Since this law causes such a designation it should indeed be curtailed in order to provide for a safe workplace for everyone. Drug use makes for an unsafe workplace according to statistics why should it matter if it is perscribed or not? I had 5 vertibrae and my leg crushed in a hit and run accident making it impossible for me to work without heavy duty pain meds. I didn’t ask my employer to “accomidate” my condition. I went back to school and got into a field where I don’t stand or carry as much. Perhaps a law to retrain people in this much pain would make more sense than a law that requires employers to pay the bill. By the slant that “B” takes I can only conclude that he has a dog in this fight.

  • John Griffin

    If the bill required notification to the employer for every prescribed drug , (so the employee can be terminated), than it would be a fair bill. Wrong, but at least evenly applied. Of course workplace drug use should be prevented, but should that not apply to all drugs? Not just the ones people have a phobia about? How many employers would be all for this bill if it included all medications? Even the ones they themselves use!

  • George Gregory

    I have far greater concerns about the growing meth problem, It is vital to differentiate between prescribed drugs and non prescribed drugs. Further more I believe this issue can be addressed with company policies rather than new laws. Having been on both sides of comp issues throughout my career I believe this is another attempt for insurance companies to control the system. If a staff member is using legal prescibed drugs we have a policy of requiring them to inform us the managers and the company. If they violate this policy then they are subject to disiplinary action. They sign a policy statement to this effect when they are hired.

  • Samantha Jones

    I can see that it would be a problem to be under the influence of any mind-altering drug while operating heavy equipment, etc. (ie. codiene, vicodin, MJ, percocet….). But to make a blanket law as suggested regarding MJ? Why not open the lines of communication with the employee and offer modified duty while using “prescribed” meds of any kind at work. Also, testing only shows they used it, not that they used it on the job. How can you fault an employee undergoing cancer treatment for example, looking for some relief at the end of the day and in the privacy of their own home. Open up the lines of communication people. MJ is not some big hallucinogenic scary drug as it is too often portrayed and can be very helpful in pain management without the side effects and addiction issues of other “pharmaceutical” and “legal” options. Don’t be sheep.

  • Bill

    Much ado about nothing.

  • RA Stevens

    In response to the Oregon safety professional – while I agree that safety is paramount – are you stating that you “FIRE” other employees who may take prescribed meds that may cause impairment?? That is the real issue here – that under a doctor’s care this medication is prescribed and I as an HR and Safety professional believe it should be treated as any other prescribed medicaiton. I also can not believe that employers should be notified when certain meds are prescribed aas refereences in the article about “Medical MJ Card” – had anyone in Oregon heard of HIPAA?

  • Aïda

    I’m sorry, but if you’re sick enough to need to be on prescribed medication, then you’re sick enough to either work light duty or stay home. I know that when I’ve been on Codeine laced cough syrup I wouldn’t work with any type of machinery. It’s too bad that this guy is in so much pain that the doctor prescribed Marinol (prescription marijuana), but he is a danger to himself and others if he’s taking Marinol.

  • http://slhmarion.org Marjorie Tajchman

    You can not just look at marijuana useage for pain control. There are many pain medications out there that have a great many side effects; restrictions when on these meds include, “do not operate heavy equipment/machinery”, “do not drive while taking this med”, etc. So how are these employees expected to work safely while on pain meds? If you terminate an employee for one prescription then you must terminate for all prescriptions with side effects that will affect their work.

  • Shrmn8tr

    Medical marajuna is a viable resource for pain medication. If you try to ban marajuna then you must ban darvocet, percocet, lortab, etc. they all effect performance in some way.

  • Bryan

    The issue here is not the “danger” of an employee who is taking legally prescribed marijuna for a legitimate reason. There is no danger. In fact, if this were any other legally prescribed pain medication (Vicodin, codein, etc), we would not be having this conversation. Marijuana presents no more of a danger to workplace safety than any other pain medication. I don’t recall any articles discussing the “dangers” of a person taking legally prescribed Vicodin. Perhaps I have missed them. An employee suffering from a severe case of the flu is certainly less effective, and potentially more dangerous, than a healthy employee. Flu shots cause flu in roughly 10% of the individuals who receive them. Let’s outlaw the flu vaccine while we are at it.

    The only “danger” posed by medical marijuana is that it negates many drug tests. We as employers might actually have to take the time to investigate why an employee tested positive for marijuana, instead of simply condemning that employee automatically.

    Bottom line: If a physician has determined that an individual requires a particular, legal pain medication, then who are we to deny that individual the medication that he or she needs? Furthermore, if taking that medication allows the employee to return to work and function as well as, or even better, than he or she did before, I say “Horay!”, for us as employers and for the employee. Let’s stop being slaves to the insurance companies’ policies and get back to the business of making money.

  • http://www.safetynewsalert.com Lisa

    I do not agree that patients receiving medical marijuana for pain management should be terminated if tested positive at work. If it is legal for medicinal purposes, then they should not lose their job. I do agree that if they are in a position where this may impair their judgement as a safety issue, then other accomations should be made or either have them on a leave of absence until they can perform their job duties. In states where it is legal for medicinal purposes, it should be treated no differently than any other medication prescribed for pain that may impair one’s judgement.

  • Chano

    The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires “reasonable” accomodations be made for people with disabilities. If someone is required to take any drug that makes it unsafe for them to perform their job duties, and there are no reasonable accomodations available, then that person should take a medical leave. If medical leave is for a lengthy period of time then long term disability should be the next step.

    Ultimately, the condition, not the medication should determine the employee’s ability to return to work. If the condition no longer necessitates the need for medication, the employee may once again be able to perform regular work duties.

  • Tony

    Oscar Blanco’s statement says it all, do not allow “under the influance” employees to endanger themselves or others. That is the law–read General Duty Clause” 5.(a)(1)

  • Tom HXXXXXX

    Living in Oregon and having known people that have had cannabis prescribed for sever pain or for lack of appatite/nausal in a cancer victim I know I believe this bill will hurt folks that need the drug.
    I too agree that this drug is NO differnet than anyother lergal pain drug. I believe that the issue should be are people on the drug at work. The system should focus efforts on a way of testing workers for more for reflexs anbd ability to preform the requitred tasks safely. One issue with today’s testing is it only shows us if the worker has had this drug in the last few weeks depending on the level of the test. If we allow lawmakers to question our doctors judgement we will decrease our ablitiy to provide quality heathcare. I believe instead the question should be a industrial ablitity test of some kind to see if the person can do their job safely. This also should hold true for other drugs, alcohol and other pain killers included. Also it should be considered that most of the people that have had cannabis prescibed are not even in the work any longer due to there heath issues. So lets figure out a good way of testing workers ablilities to do the job safely. In my safety role in the past here in Oregon I have also witnessed a lot of folks that were a danger to them selfs and others that were not on drugs and just had bad unsafe work habits.

  • Ryan Loss Control

    I believe that any medication MJ, or otherwise is an inherent risk to workplace safety. I could assume that individuals that have been prescribed medication, MJ included should be assessed for their ability to perform the function of their job. Would these individuals not be on a light-or modified duty that could safely sustain their employment until recovery has been achieved?
    Furthermore I believe MJ should be a legitimate pain medication that should be available to anyone needing it. By implamentation of the proposed house bill would only convolute, and prolong the inevitable reality, we must start to address these issues regardless of the type of medications.
    When are we going to get over the phobia! One Love.

  • Safety Coordinator

    Our comapny has rules in place for these types of medications (pain pills, MJ and the like). When you have to take these at home there is a certain permissabnle level allowed in the bloodstream at work. These are extremely low and based on scientific fact. These legal medicaions should no be treated any differently than alcohol. If you are intoxicated when at work you should be terminated.

    If you have taken any of these medications or alcohol and allowed for the proper time frame prior to coming to work you should be OK.

    No pain medication should be taken at work and we would not release an employee onto the production florr for any work, even light duty, if the need to take it all the time. They would need a release from a doctor that states that the medication should only be taken when not at work.

  • frank

    Have you ever had a close relative or friend needing marijuana or the pill equal too. My wife at 41 on her birthday had to have a breast removed, chemo, and radiation. After her first treatment she went to the hospital for a majority of a day because her blood pressure sunk to 80 over 39. She had severe pain and nausia. Fotunately her oncologist experienced chemo for himself ( not fortunatly that he had cancer ) and he knew what people went through. I would have no problem working with someone that had enough drive to go to work in that much discomfort.

  • Joe

    I am also a safety professional. I think you are totally blowing this out of proportion. Medical MJ is not a threat to safety any more than any other pain relieving medication. Any medication that inhibits an employees ability to safely do their job is forbidden in the workplace to begin with. It doesn’t matter if it’s Vicodin or MJ. The issue with drug testing in the workplace is one of abuse, addiction and recreational use…a totally different issue. Don’t confuse the two just because we are talking about MJ. If an employee has medical clearance to use medical MJ, it shouldn’t matter if he/she test positive for it, as long as the employee isn’t under the influence during working hours. Anyone who places legitimate users in the same catagory with recreational users of MJ is sadly misinformed and needs to throw away their copy of Reefer Madness. If someone has a medical condition that requires medical MJ, maybe they have enough problems to deal with. I know I have enough safety issues to worry about. The guy who is using medical MJ at night or on the weekend away from work is last on my list as long as he comes to work functional and sober.

  • Kevin

    If employers actually knew the types of narcotic drugs their employees take on a regular basis, they would flip. MJ is the least of their worries… take a look at the prescriptions listed on any DOT physical and that will shed more light on an employee’s usage. You must have policies in effect to restrict the type of work employees perform. HIPAA laws protect employee’s rights.

  • Tom

    Why dont we just fire the guy who sponsored the legislation.

  • http://www.workforceassurance.com Ben Kinney

    After reading the article and the responses I feel that there is a lack of cummunication between the doctors and the employer. If an employee is released to full duty by the doctor while on pain medication then the doctor should be taking into consideration the full Job description for that employees duties.

    Alot of this is the Employers responsibility, not just for the safety of the one employee but all of the employees, and lets not forget the protection of the company. if there are questions about what you can or cannot do with these employees in your state talk to the Risk Management of your Workers Compensation insurance company, they should be very willing to talk with you and help you figure out a legal solution without getting into the Fed and State fight about Legality of a medication.

  • Nancy

    What has happened to doctor/patient confidentiality? I certainly agree that I don’t want anyone in the workplace that is on any type of medication that keeps them from being focused. However, I have known and workded with people that were taking prescribed methadone, xanax, valium, codiene, etc. All of those drugs are mind altering. I have to work, and regardless of my thoughts or opinions, I cannot control what my co-workers take. MJ has been around since the beginning of time, and medical card or not, if someone wants to indulge in this type of activity (whether prescribe or recreational), they will. Seriously, with all the problems this country is having right now, if MJ improves the quality of someone’s life, and it has been prescribe by a physician, get over it. I just assume my employer not know what or why I see my doctor for. It’s not anyone else’s business.

  • Steph

    Hello what the hell happened to HIPPA????? This is all abunch of bull. Just another way to get into peoples personal life. I think that if you need it then you need it. Don’t punish people beacuse they are trying to do things right and make a living but need a little bit of pain medication.

  • Don

    Our employees can use pot if they want. When they take a DOT drug test with positive results. Termination proceedings will start, first step remove from safety sensitive position. Since a CDL is a condition of employment, termination is imminent.

  • Steve

    Federal law specifies that pot is illegal. State law does not override federal law. Therefore, it is a moot point to even discuss the issue until the federal law changes. From a compliance perspective, the most stringent regulation is used, regardless of the topic.

  • Jon

    Even if it is legally authorized by the state, it is still illegal to use according to the fedral goverment. What employer should be thrown into this situation? – They should fix one of these laws but not while forgeting other employees safety.

  • mike R

    To Brian: “As long as the doctor writes them a release without restrictions, I’ve got to let hem work.”

    To Tim HXXXXXX: “In my safety role in the past here in Oregon I have also witnessed a lot of folks that were a danger to them selfs and others that were not on drugs and just had bad unsafe work habits.”

    It is important to note, that when an employee is impaired there will be observable behaviors that will demonstrate the impairment; slurred speech, stumbling, confusion, slower than normal reaction time, increased errors, etc. It is important for the employer to be aware of these behaviors and when observed, investigate whether an employee is “too impaired to work.”

    If an employee gives you a note from their doctor saying they have “no restrictions” but are clearly impaired and pose a risk to themselves and others, then the employer is duty bound to prevent them from working. The doctor did not write the note in the workplace and did not make the determiantion based on the behaviors you witness. Further, the impairment could be cause by any other reason besides being under the influence; over tired, low blood sugar, illness, etc.

    It is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace.

  • tabasco

    I do not believe that the employee needs to be terminated, but they must be placed on medical leave until the situation have passed. If the need is for continued (long term) use the employee will need to find another line of work to sustain their Habit regardless of the type of medication.

  • Stacie

    This will not – and definitely should not – pass the way it is written now. You can’t go to the doctor and have an open file sitting there but you want the doctor’s to send you a letter when someone applies for a medical marijuana card – that is an invasion of privacy. The pain management expert states not everyone that applies receives the card. You will have all kinds of lawsuits when someone is terminated for having applied for this card.

    Futhermore, I agree with some of the others who stated to make the same concessions you would for other prescribed narcotics. You can not operate heavy machinery while you are taking the prescription – period. The side effects are the side effects. You should not be allowed to have a doctor state that it will be OK for this one particular patient as suggested in one of the comments.

  • http://www.hozhoni.com Scott M.

    As others have said, this is NOT about medical MJ, or even MJ by itself. It is about safety…plain and simple. I am the safety mgr, along with other HR functions, where I work. If an employee needs to be on any type of narcotic pain medication, or any other type of medication that would affect the safety of that employee or others around them, they do not work, even if the Dr. has written and signed that the employee has no restrictions. PERIOD! If reasonable accomodations can be made under ADA, then we will offer them, but this rarely happens in this type of case.

    Unfortunately, the people proposing this law are just trying to single out MJ. Would you really rather have someone on Vicodan or Tylenol #3 (codeine), or demerol (morphine) just because these drugs have been approved by the FDA?

  • Kicker

    While I may disagree on the issue of medical MJ, if it has been legalized at the State level, then the only real issue is safety. If the employee is working in conditions where loss of coordination or impaired judgment could result in injury or death, then the employer should have every right, and responsibility, to remove that employee from the workplace. Similarly with medical impairment and work quality or productivity. If MJ interferes, the employee has the choice of the MJ or the job.

    It is not the responsibility of the employer to sacrifice their business just so an employee can use an incapacitating drug.

  • B

    RE: I hope this bill is passed – I especially like the part about informing the employer when a worker applies for a medical marijuana card.
    ________________________________________

    this is a violation of our right to privacy. so if you have aids or herpes or crotch rot or diabetes, your employer has the right to know?

  • Joe K.

    Most pain medications indicate it is unsafe to operate equipment or drive while on the medication. It does not matter if the drug is legal or illegal, the consequenses for safety are the same and the response should be the same, if on pain medication, working with or around equipment should be prohibited.

  • Brian Browning

    Mike R. If you feel you can tell just by an employees actions that they are impaired, you’re fooling yourself. There is a wide space between being too impaired to operate machinery safely and stumbling around, slurruing speech etc.

  • Mike xxx

    I am a safety professional in Minnesota. State law does not allow us to fire anyone who tests positive on a drug test. They must be given the opportunity to complete a drug rehab/awareness program. There are currently initiatives in the MN state legislature for the legalizing of medical marijuana. Does this scare me? No not really. Narcotic pain medictions are typically expelled from the body in 1 to 5 days. MJ can take up to 4 weeks depending on the persons bady fat %, the level of use, and ones own metabolic rate. MJ metabolites are organically soluble and readily absorbed by your fatty tissue cells. Narcotic pain meds are water soluble and are expelled from the body rather quickly regardless of the level of use. Though with a high level of use of narcotic pain killers one most typically cannot stop suddenly without some real nasty withdrawal effects. Doctors prescribe pain killers to manage pain. Someone who is going thru this is doing just that, managing their pain. The euphoric effects that one typically associates with pain killers is all but non existent with people who experience severe chronic pain. I know of cancer patients who much rather would like to be on MJ pain management for the very reason it allows them to eat. Narcotic pain killers do not help to reduce the nauseating effects of chemo. With this being said employers should be alot more worried about prescription pain killer abuse/meth. abuse than MJ abuse. Much easier to find out with a random drug testing program if your employee is using MJ on the side. And good “under the influence” training to detect users on the job. Allow doctors to do the job they have spent typically a third of their lives training for. As employers we need to look out for the safety and well being of the employees as well as the company. A good safety/loss prevention program is going to address how to handle people who may be legally under the influence of a prescribed medication. The exact prescription regardless of what it may be is irrelevant. Anyone at any time could be under the influence of a prescribed medication. It is too bad so many people are so uneducated about MJ and its actual effects on the body. I am not writing this to say that I am for the legalozing of MJ in any form. But people think that MJ would be one more thing they have to worry about. New pain meds are developed all the time. Why isn’t anyone all up in arms about those? Another FYI, MJ is clinically defined as a stimulant! Think of drinking a pot of coffee. What do you feel like not too long after you stop drinking it? Time for a nap.

  • DMJ

    fter his second response I have to wonder if “B” and some of the others are looking at the entire issue. The issue is not about meds, pain meds are a fact of life for many conditions both short and long term, it is about the accomidations for the meds. People who are on drugs that impair their judgement or capabilities do not need to be driving forklifts or cranes or any number of dangerous chunks of machinery out there. By the same token this is not an ADA issue because there are so many choices out there for pain relief. If you read the article the majority of those who request it are not elligible for it, they just want to get high legally. Why should other employees and employers pay for accomidations or for the injuries this condition could and will cause? It makes no sense.

  • R

    Well, we are starting to see the real issue here. The performance needs to be addressed, not the drug. If they can not safely do the job, then to protect the employee and others, they must be removed from a job until it can be performed safely.

    As was said before, just because the Dr said they can work while taking a certain medication, the prescribing Doctor must be notified. I’m certain they would change their stance when they heard performance was compromised and the patient may get hurt.

  • JC – Safety Coordinator

    Being a Safety Coordinaor for several years, I have to agree with “Safety Coordinator” and “Joe” above. My company also has a policy that states when an employee is taking PRESCRIBED MEDICATIONS he / she is to notify his / her supervisor immediately. That employee will be placed on Restricted “Light” Duty until such time as their doctor releases them back to full duty. I agree that the problem with MJ is insignificant compaired to what other pain meds are available; up to and including liquid morphine elixir (which my wife was on for about three months).

    It’s about time that we focus on “real” drug problems…the recreational drug users, and not the ones where an employee is trying to maintain his / her family’s income and standard of living. Especially in this economy. I could not justify the termination an employee for using a prescribed medication. Rstricted duty so that he / she will not be in a position that could injure themselves, or others….YES. Termination….NO.

    (By the way…. Reefer Madness IS NOT a true documentary!)

  • cc

    i don’t see how this is different from people who take anti-anxiety drugs such as xanax, vicodin, etc., not to mention those type of meds mess up your coordination moreso than marijuana.
    if the doctor has prescribed it and your state declares it legal, i don’t think there should be any question at all in regards to taking it at work. some people need it just as they need heart medication. without it they will be housebound and unable to function.
    as a ‘disabled ‘ person, i would rather be a productive member of society and go to work everyday than be stuck at home. if i had to take marinol or smoke marijuana to be able to do so, i wouldn’t hesitate.
    its all because of the stigma that comes along with the name ‘marijuana’.
    also, i beleive we have a law called ‘HIPPAA’ to protect patients rights. i am on narcotics for pain relief and i would feel very violated if my job were informed of this. it is my personal business, and as long as i can function, it should not interfere.
    again, its the stigma.
    too bad, because this drug is literally a lifesaver for some. one’s quality of life depends a lot on gainful employment financially and mentally.

  • http://slhmarion.org Marjorie Tajchman

    Keep it simple! All drugs should be treated the same. The safety issues are the same. Just because someone says MJ everyone gets in an uproar! There is no need for legislation! It is the employee’s responsibility to be upfront with the employer if they have to take a medication that may impair their work performance. Don’t complicate the issue.

  • DARIN

    Joe says, “If an employee has medical clearance to use medical MJ, it shouldn’t matter if he/she test positive for it, as long as the employee isn’t under the influence during working hours.” My question is when a incident happens which requires a post accident drug test, how does a company’s Medical Review Officer (MRO) determine whether or not the employee was under the influence at the time of the incident/during working hours. No doubt the drug test will come back positive but, does that test automatically imply “under the influence” or “impaired”? or are there different pre-determined levels which indicate or translate to these. For example, if a guy/gal legally using medical MJ the night before work to help relieve the pain so they can go to sleep had an incident early the next morning what happens? Do company MRO’s just report that the post accident test is negative once they find out the employee is a legal user. For privacy purposes, does the employee have to notify the company of their MJ prescription? I’m in California and would like to know how the laws relate to here.

  • Vince

    Marijuana is controlled by federal law but so is HIPPA. In a drug screen, if a substance flags, the doctor is supposed to ask the patient if he/she has a prescription. If one can be procured, the employer is not supposed to be informed. To automatically terminate someone because of a prescribed medicine is violating their civil rights, showing prejudice because of a medical condition.

    That being said, the employer has a responsibility to ALL of his employees, not just ones with medical needs. If an employee can use a controlled medication without impairment, OK, but if there is any impairment, whether from a “legal” drug like Nyquil or an “illegal” drug like Marinol, you can’t let them perform machinery work. Period. And if you can’t find accomodation, then it’s time for FMLA.

  • TargetDriver

    Part of the problem with issuing the medical mj cards is that it is easy enough to shop doctors and get one to cover for recreational use. I believe you could nip that sort of abuse in the bud (sorry) if it were made a state law that doctors must personally indemnify the employer from acccidents attributable to drug impairment caused by patients who they have returned to work unrestricted with a prescription for any narcotic or mj.

    BTW: Am I the only one to notice that the proponents of restricted usage are the only ones who seem to have spell/grammar-check?

  • Larry

    I know here if the following two conditions are meet the most we legally can do is send the employee home with full pay:

    1.) Substance causing the problem is legally prescribed.
    2) Doctor has provided a signed statement that the employee can return to work without restrictions.

    Now because most of our work is on federal contract Marijuana would not be able to be legally prescribed. Federal law supersedes state law so the point about Marijuana is moot. As for any other legally prescribed medication we are required to follow the above criteria of face discrimination law suites and loss of EEO and all federal contracts.

  • Semantics

    Doesn’t anyone know how to spell?

  • V Joslin

    HIPPA will prevent the notification of any protected patient info to an employer, whether an employee has applied for a “mj card or Pseudoephedrine (try to by that in Michigan you have to provide ID and fill out forms). Very few Doctors will risk their licence.
    If a company doesn’t have policy to address a performance issue, (and yes not being able to work safely is a performance issue), someone isn’t doing their job.
    You can always require conformation by the company doctor of whether an employee should be able to work safely under a prescribed medication.
    I’ve been in Occupational Safety for nearly 30 years, what this really sounds like is another small issue blown all out of proportion, another smoke screen, so our representitves can cover their lack of ability to identify and solve real issues.

  • mike R

    To Brian Browning:

    “Mike R. If you feel you can tell just by an employees actions that they are impaired, you’re fooling yourself. There is a wide space between being too impaired to operate machinery safely and stumbling around, slurruing speech etc.”

    I do agree that there is a wide space between the too. Having been involved with safety since 1975, I have seen too many managers rely on a doctor’s note to pass on their responsibility to monitor their workers. Everytime marijuana and illegal drug use comes up, the discussion goes towards testing and feelings about the iliicit drug use.

    My point is that impairment shows up in many different ways; a change from the norm, that can be observed and investigated. A supervisor who relies only on a doctor’s note to determine if their employees are fit for duty is at best negligent.

    One of the first questions you will be asked (and their co-workers will be asked) in an investigation will be, “Did you notice anything different in the person’s behavior?” You, the manager will probably say, “No, but I had a doctor’s note saying they had no restrictions.” Talking to the co-workers, they will probably say, “Oh yeah, he was acting weird, made more mistakes, a lot slower than normal, stayed to themself, looked really tired or sick, made more excuses, smelled of pot and alcohol….and the manager knew it and did nothing!”

    Certainly not a position I would want to be in….if you have been lucky and have never been involved in a major accident or death on the job, don’t think it can’t happen to you. Besides the extreme cost in Workers Compensation Premiums the company will have to pay and the OSHA fines, the company and the manager may find themselves liable for injuries in a court of law.

  • Jon

    Federal law says it is illegal. Employers who allow this are breaking the law even if the state says it’s okay. Employers who do not allow this are breaking the state law. I guess it just comes down to whether you prefer state or federal charges?

  • mike R

    To Jon: “Federal law says it is illegal. Employers who allow this are breaking the law even if the state says it’s okay. Employers who do not allow this are breaking the state law. I guess it just comes down to whether you prefer state or federal charges?”

    I’m not sure what Federal Law the employer would be breaking. There seems to be an expectancy that the employer is now an arm of the government to enforce drug and immigration laws. The Federal government requires that the employer provide a SAFE WORKPLACE.

    Of course, if the company has a federal contract and falls under the Federal Drug Free Workplace regulations, then the employee would have to be charged before the employer could take any job action. Then again, if they failed to take job action, they would not be in violation of the law, just their contractural obligations to have a Federal contract.

  • Chris C

    I’ve never smoked MJ in my life but know that there are legitimate reasons for its use. (A close relative is qudrapegic) MJ has been so deamonized by the government that its use as a medicine has been ignored and misrepresented. If it were legalized and contolled like any other medicine we would have fewer cases of abuse. I would venture to guess that most managers with “horror stories” don’t know how to manage and allow unsafe behaviors to take place without properly addressing them as soon as they are noticed. As for not being able to work at any job with any trace of MJ, that is the paranoid talking again. MJ is one of the longest lasting in the blood system even though the amount may be so small as to have no effect on behavior. It is certainly better than many or the alternative, prescription medications. Focusing on the on-the-job behavior is the key to keeping a safe workplace, not undertaking another oppressive campaign on those in pain.

  • JB

    As an employer that may have some experience with MJ, it was college after all, I cannot even fathom how someone could work while smoking MJ. Especially in a manufacturing environment. If this is allowed, it will take someone’s death to have this seriously reviewed. From a Worker’s Comp. standpoint, I feel any worker who injures themself or someone else as a result of MJ use, should not be eligible for WC. If they injure someone else, the worker who caused the incident should be held liable, and the injured party should have the right to sue. But, then that means all employees must have some sort of liability insurance….the endless spiral of avoiding responsibility begins again!!

  • Safety Officer

    What physician would release the employee to return to work with no restrictions while taking prescription marijuana? What if the employee was an airline pilot? Would the physician buy a ticket and fly on his jet? We all have a responsibility for safety first. Seems if the physician released this employee and he not only hurt someone else on the job but himself as well, the physician may have to assume some of the liability since they released him!

  • http://www.cannabisculture.com Pot Protects From Workplace Accidents

    Pot Protects From Workplace Accidents

    This whole argument is ridiculous. Pot does not make you less safe in the workplace – it makes you MORE SAFE!!

    Another one of the overhyped stereotypes around marijuana users has just bitten the dust. For years people assumed that getting ‘stoned’ made you either lazy or careless. The bleary-eyed stoner getting into mishaps is the stuff of much comedy. But what if marijuana use actually made you more careful and less likely to screw up and hurt yourself?

    A new Swiss study published at Bio-Med Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/9/40) concludes exactly that: marijuana can protect you from injury. The study, titled “Alcohol and cannabis use as risk factors for injury – a case-crossover analysis in a Swiss hospital emergency department” compared the injuries that required hospitalization. The authors’ conclusions were surprising: marijuana use is not only NOT associated with increased risk of injury – marijuana users actually get injured less than sober people: “The results for cannabis use were quite surprising. […] The present study in fact indicated a ‘protective effect’ of cannabis use in a dose-response relationship.”

    “Great news,” proclaimed Cannabis Culture Magazine editor Marc Emery. “We’ve said for years that marijuana users are responsible and productive members of society. This study confirms that using marijuana can actually make you more careful, resulting in less accidents and emergency room visits. Booze makes you take risks without thinking while marijuana makes you contemplative and cautious.” The authors of the study agreed, speculating that the effects of marijuana, in contrast to alcohol, make you more likely to avoid risky situations.

    Jacob Hunter, BC Marijuana Party organizer, agreed that the bumbling stoner stereotype, like so many things about marijuana’s risks, is another myth: “The problem with these stereotypes is that they get ingrained in the public mindset and are hard to dislodge, even with scientific proof. People still think marijuana users are lazy and unproductive, even when some of them like Michael Phelps, Pierre Burton and Barack Obama achieve at the highest levels. Hopefully this study will open some eyes.”

    Click here to read “Alcohol and cannabis use as risk factors for injury – a case-crossover analysis in a Swiss hospital emergency department”

    Contacts:

    Marc Emery 604.689.0590
    marc@cannabisculture.com

    Jacob Hunter
    jacob@cannabisculture.com

  • B

    re: Well, we are starting to see the real issue here. The performance needs to be addressed, not the drug. If they can not safely do the job, then to protect the employee and others, they must be removed from a job until it can be performed safely.

    As was said before, just because the Dr said they can work while taking a certain medication, the prescribing Doctor must be notified. I’m certain they would change their stance when they heard performance was compromised and the patient may get hurt.
    ——————————————————————————————–

    This is why we should leave it up to the doctor to decide if the patient can perform the job. employers need to stick to what they do best.

  • B

    RE: Federal law says it is illegal. Employers who allow this are breaking the law even if the state says it’s okay. Employers who do not allow this are breaking the state law. I guess it just comes down to whether you prefer state or federal charges?

    _____________________________________________________________________________________
    And this is one of the reasons we have lost faith and respect in the federal govt. the federal govt is here because of the states, not the other way around. the 10th amendment exists because of the arrogance of the federal govt.

  • http://Stonemarkcarpets.com Ronald Stonis

    WE are all in sympathy for those who are in pain; however, we are talking about safety, as some have pointed out. If ANY medication impairs the work/focus/safety of any employee, then he should not be hired, or should be let go for the sake and safety of others. The only alternative should be that the employee has to find a way where he is not using the medication during work hours. One serious injury, both to the employee and another, or even a death caused by the impairment of another co-worker should not even be considered as a possibility due to a person on medication that causes the impairment.
    As a side note, if marujwana is ever legalized in all states, I can see a nation of “drugees” at the work place causing all kinds of insurmountable problems due to its misuse. This is how a nation goes downhill and we had better wake up and “smell the coffee” on this one.

  • DMJ

    I guess that Mike R is unfamiliar with contract law. If you sign a contract and then do not hold up your end it is called “breach of contract” and the other side of the contract can then enforce the contract terms or collect tripple dammages or both. It is breaking the law rto not honor a contract. Maybe that is why it is called contract law???

  • RP

    If legislation is needed–and it may be–then forget about the name of the drug and about urine or blood tests. The law should establish a standardized motor skills, coordination test. If the safety-sensitive-position worker can pass the test, he can work. If not, he has no business endangering his life and others and can be reassigned or sent home.

  • Jon

    Mike R. – I’m not sure what Federal Law the employer would be breaking. There seems to be an expectancy that the employer is now an arm of the government to enforce drug and immigration laws. The Federal government requires that the employer provide a SAFE WORKPLACE.

    Of course, if the company has a federal contract and falls under the Federal Drug Free Workplace regulations, then the employee would have to be charged before the employer could take any job action. Then again, if they failed to take job action, they would not be in violation of the law, just their contractural obligations to have a Federal contract.

    Mike, it’s really quite simple, any time you aid someone else in committing a crime, you are breaking a law. Many from the mafia, drug cartel and even gang members can attest to this.

  • B

    RE:
    As a side note, if marujwana is ever legalized in all states, I can see a nation of “drugees” at the work place causing all kinds of insurmountable problems due to its misuse. This is how a nation goes downhill and we had better wake up and “smell the coffee” on this one.
    ——————————————————————

    …and the legalization and govt control of alcohol has lead our country down a drunken path? I have not even once in my career observed someone showing up drunk at work. not to say it doesnt happen, i know it does, but it is an isolated case not the norm like you are professing. you have an empty argument for the prohibition.

  • Rafael Carrillo T&S Coordinator

    I’m also a safety professsional and I agree 100% with Gonzalo Rodriguez, I believe that folks are not seeing the big picture here. This is not an issue about denying people who need a certain type of medication for pain. This is about workplace safety, what I know is that any type of medication that makes someone unable to function in the job site is a danger to themselves and those around them. Look at what danger can come from the effect of the meds on the individual and not the meds. Typically most meds that are potent have a warning to not operate or work around moving equipment. So why try to make any one med exempt from common safety sense? Why the concern now for this type of med in especific?

  • B.G.

    Here is a twist on this conversation. Until mj comes in pill form, it must be smoked to get into the blood stream. Last time I saw the stuff, it didn’t have any sort of filter attached. Now we are looking at the long term health risks associated with heavy tar and nicotine poisoning which come with inhaling the smoke (unless your like Bill Clinton). Like any other prescribed pain med, if misused, and like cigarettes, which have addictive compounds you can bet that it will be abused. I agree that each person has their own threshold for pain. I also agree that not all pain meds work the same for everyone. I am a Safety Coordinator for a steel erecting contractor in California. We are an at will employer, and have a drug free work place policy in effect. Included in the policy, is an Employee Assistance Program. I have dealt with dependency issues, and recently an employee who “had been using mj for pain” came to me, because he said he couldn’t make it through a single day without using. He said he no longer was in pain, he just liked the feeling!! He wanted to be sober again. and get back on a field crew. Back to my original point. Smoking any tobacco product wastes time, and is a distraction to the work force. Long term, it is a greater burden on our healthcare system. which costs the employer.

  • DAVE

    Are we saying that marijuana is more of an imperative then vicodin, norco, percocet, ocycontin or soma? Come on people. It is probably the safest pain medication on the planet. You can’t OD from pot. You can OD on aspirin and tylenol. The big picture here is that employers are looking for ways to get rid of people in the workplace with injuries. That is the bottom line. When medical mirijuana becomes legal at the federal level they will have no recourse.

  • B.G.

    Depending on what type of industry you are in determines what your employees can do while they are taking meds for pain. If you have an office full of desk jockeys pounding on keyboards, take the vicodin. if you are working at heights handling heavy steel, don’t come to work if you don’t feel 100%. It’s a mind game people play with themselves and their employers when it comes to medical marijuana. Fake some pain, get some pot. Seriously injure yourself or your co-worker. oops, I didn’t think I was impaired. Marijuana is no different than alcohol, it numbs your brain more than it relieves any pain. Like any medication, take too much and the possibility of going comatose is REAL. It may take more pot to get there, but it happens more than you know.

  • Jay

    Alcohol and pot the same get real. Ok whens the last time you seen somebody get so plastered from pot that they threw up everywhere and end up passing out and urinating themselves? Ok now whens the last time you seen this because of alcohol ? People who do not partake in smoking marijauna should shut thier traps as they know nothing about the effects (Reminds of the overeaction that the movie reefe madness brought about). They act like you go psycho from smoking marijauna as if you were on PCP, Acid or something. PUFF PUFF PASS

  • mike R

    To Jon:
    “Mike, it’s really quite simple, any time you aid someone else in committing a crime, you are breaking a law. Many from the mafia, drug cartel and even gang members can attest to this.”

    When laws conflict (State and Federal), an individual or company should not be put in the middle to dertermine what is lawful. If a person robs a bank and you don’t attempt to subdue the individual, you are not aiding them. You are not required by law to ENFORCE the law. Ask any police officer and they will discourage you from this behavior. Yet, we have no problem expecting company’s and managers from ENFORCING laws unrelated to employment.

    To BG:
    “Depending on what type of industry you are in determines what your employees can do while they are taking meds for pain. If you have an office full of desk jockeys pounding on keyboards, take the vicodin. if you are working at heights handling heavy steel, don’t come to work if you don’t feel 100%.”

    I have to disagree with you. It’s not the INDUSTRY that determines what is an acceptable risk in the workplace, it is the supervisor. If a supervisor sees an employee who is impaired whether working heavy machinery or answering phones, it is up to the supervisor to assess the risk and take action. I give you the example of the 9-1-1 dispatcher who was under the influence and sent the emergency unit to the wrong address or the office worker who passed out at their desk and hit their head on a book case.

  • DMJ

    The cvast majority of doctors who decide on light duty etc have little or no clue as to what a particular employee is doing on the job. How many times has a doctor put an employee off work when light duty was available? Let doctors do what theya re good at, healing, let the spervisor and the company do what they are good at, decide what is safe.

  • Shrmn8tr

    Anyone who wants the real dope on MJ must read the LaGuardia Report. It was a panel of 12 doctors from Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Johns Hopkins assembled by the then Mayor of New York to determine the effects of MJ. Please note that Mr. LaGuardia was friends with Anslinger and was supplied with MJ by Anslinger for this research. Anslinger was the person who headed the crusade aginst mj back in 1937 because of predjudice against hispanics and blacks. Anslinger also backed the move “refer madness” which was shown by LaGuardia’s researchers to be entirely false. It does not make you psycotic. He then changed position 180 degrees and claimed it should be illegal because the Soviet Union might use mj to undermine our army by making them lazy and docile.

  • mike R

    To DMJ:
    “The cvast majority of doctors who decide on light duty etc have little or no clue as to what a particular employee is doing on the job. How many times has a doctor put an employee off work when light duty was available? Let doctors do what theya re good at, healing, let the spervisor and the company do what they are good at, decide what is safe.”

    I agree with you. It is the supervisor that has is responsible for keeping the workplace safe. With the new updates to the FMLA, there was a change in language that permits the employer to contact the doctor to get clarity on work restrictions. Of course, the employer must provide a detailed job description that indicates what physical requirements are required.

    To everyone who is still focused on illegal and legal drugs:

    If I work with you and you in any way appear impaired, you are going home. I don’t care if its because you are smoking marijuana, taking vicoden, had a bachelor’s party last night, or were up all night with a sick spouse. From a discipline point of view, we will look at the reasons and the frequency when you get back, but you will not work if you are impaired. Oh, by the way, if you were only distracted momentarily and not really impaired, but I or one of your co-workers thinks you are impaired, we will err on the side of caution and you are going home. All the discussion about the legalities of drug use do not make the workplace safer. Anything short of sending potentially impaired individuals home, makes a workplace an accident waiting to happen.

  • Shrmn8tr

    The effects of marajuna only last a few hours. If someone smokes a joint at 10 pm he will not be impared at 8 am the next morning. However if he is tested he will test positive for up to 28 days. This person is not impared for 28 days so how is thi fair treatment? You neysayers need to educate yourselves on the effects of marajuna if you are going to discuss it. READ THE LAGUARDIA REPORT!!!!!!!! It’s science fact!!!!! Google it on the web!!!! I also agree if you use any drug or marajuna at work you should be dismissed until you are nolonger impared. But testing and the media are biased toward the casual or medical marajuna smoker. I have worked with people that drank the night before and showed up with a hangover too bad you can’t test that! I would rather work with a casual smoker that got stoned out of his gourd the nignt before work than a drinker that drank himself into oblivion the night before work.

  • DMJ

    Shrmn8tr tows the pot party line well. While it is true that teh acute effects are short lived it is also true that cronic effects are on the same order as a moderate drinker. The key thing that should be noted is that it is illegal, it does impir judgement, and there is no quick and easy way to tell if the person is just coming down from a high and is somewhat impaired or lit up last Friday and is not currently affected. This being the case you have to fall back on legal precedents and teh fact that if you allow someone who is impaired to work there is a huge legal liability. What is so hard about obeying the law and getting your kicks the old fashioned way with a hot chick, a cold beer and a sports bar ? The issue is legality and impairment. Pot complicates both an endangers fellow workers and employers. I’ve worked in drug free work places all my life and have yet to have a stellar worker test positive. It is always the moderate to marginal workers who test positive. Could there be a correlation? As the rabbit says “Could Be, could be”.

  • B

    It is arguably NOT illegal. In this case the government is very conflicted on this issue. The Pot Party line is supported by millions of people, including doctors, judges, lawyers, professors, law enforcement and other pillars of our community. In a free democratic republic we should not give more power to the government or the employers, especially where none is needed. All the tools are in place to safely monitor workers performance and remove them from the job when necessary. Prohibition on MJ and most other drugs is a very very expensive endeavor, is mostly unsuccessful, does more harm than good and serves/supports a system, both legal and illegal we would be better off not having. Once again, open up your eyes and look at the big picture.

    Defeating a drug test is as easy as consuming 1 oz of vinegar, 1 b complex vitamin with a 1/2 gallon of water. Hard dangerous drugs like meth and coke purge from your system in hours compared to MJ, the least harmful, which takes days without the above remedy. Chronic users know this and defeat the tests all the time. I know this because I am a retired cop, have been in charge of a prison drug test program and witnessed the passing of a drug screen test by more than one chronic MJ user.

  • dmj

    Perhsp you need a small lesson in legal vs illegal? In our contry federal law takes precedence over state law. The federal law says it is illegal. End of discussion. I have had a large number of people try to defeat drug testing over the years. To date they have not succeeded. Those that have tried your recipe come back with a “positive, tampered” result. I even had one shave his entire body of hair trying to pass a pre employment check only to fail the urine and nail test. If you want to ensure a drug free workplace it can be done.
    As for the millions and millions who support drug use, your point is??? Millions more support no speed limit yet it is still illegal to go over 70 mph in most states. Drugs in the work place cause an unsafe condition. This is not going to change just because millions like to use drugs. I work hard to keep my employees safe. Thsi will continue to include both for cause and random drug tests. I have not had a lsot time injury in 6 years. I and my employees like it like that.

  • B

    Perhaps you need a lesson in economics and real life. trillions of dollars have been spent on the drug war. the machine fighting it is astronomical, bleeding our system to a point of failure. if a quarter of the money spent on law enforcement, incarceration, losses incurred due to violent crime (homicides, robberies, kidnapping, arson), burglaries, thefts, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect that are a direct result of drug laws and abuse and was put towards education and rehabilitation, we would have a much different economy and society.

    MJ is not a measurable source of any problem in our society but the laws created against MJ are a direct result of corporate corruption, government propaganda (mostly federal), and inflict more harm and destruction on our society and THAT is measurable.

    Business owners are continually pushing their opinions on the rest of us. We have a country on the brink of failure as a result of business telling us how to do business. it takes a strong govt and strong unions to prevent the fascist bully arrogant ways of business from controlling the common people of our country.

    The federal govt is strictly controlled by the US constitution and because our society has been dumbed down, it has become much too big and much to powerful. we are paying that price today and will continue until we wake up.

  • DannyB

    I agree with Don Ryan.
    And, to add on – I’ve never encoutered an employee who (knowingly on their “own time”) uses marajuana to have any issues with safety. Honestly, with nearly 300 field employees in our company working at once, I have found that it is the alcohol users to be the problem with compliance. The government has it backwards, if you ask me. I’m not suggesting that I am a propigator of “legalizing it”, but people need to get real here.

    Sure, if it’s illegal, then it is illegal; but to criminalize a person or worker for using marauajana for medicinial purposes is like criminalizing a back-pain problem worker who takes morphine for pain.
    Here’s the main issue: if we know that a worker is taking prescribed medication, we, as safety professionals, need to monitor them to ensure that they are safe … hey, that’s why we get paid to be safety professionals, right.
    Get off of the 1955 anti-marajuana propaganda that it is “evil”. Alcohol is a leading cause in domestic violence, abuse, deaths, etc. in the world; give me the statistics on marajuana related crimes, etc. in comparision to alcohol and I will humbly recant, savvy?

    Watch your workers people – that is your job; debating more big-governement socialist garbage is not – although, we do have the 10th amendment to publically uphold ….

  • mike R

    I agree with Danny B. “Watch your workers people – that is your job; debating more big-governement socialist garbage is not”

    While Danny shares the annectdotal evidence that alcohol is a larger threat to safety at his place of employment, it still leads to the alcohol vs. marijuana debate. The REAL issue is impairment. Anything that impairs a person from working safely needs to be address from a supervisor who harps about productivity and is lax about safety enforcement to the use of drugs/ alcohol to workers who are just too tired. The solution isn’t in Washington or in the Corporate board rooms (although they can support a safe work place). The solution is with supervisors and workers who are alert and vigilint in identifying hazards and taking immediate action to correct them, whether the hazard is a person too tired, drugged, or drunk to operate safely or because someone made a mistake.

  • http://www.healthfix4life.com Mike M

    Safety is first regardless of any other circumstance. No employee should ever be forced to accommodate another employee on drugs that impair the ability to function 100%. And the issue about how impaired a person is stinks. Drug users are drug users.. Alcoholics are alcoholics.

    There is no place in the safety manual where tolerance is an acceptable cause for an accident. I can see it now,

    “Mrs. Somebody, I’m sorry but your husband was killed today. But don’t be mad. I knew the guy who killed him was high but since he had a legal prescription for the drug, and we couldn’t tell how impaired he was there was nothing we could do.”

    People on drugs or hung over from drinking are impaired. Impaired employees cause accidents. To me the real issue is do we need the government telling us how tolerant we should be when it comes safety!

  • Bob C

    Ban one type of drug that impairs the patient then you have to ban them all. Also, as soon as a doctor informs an employer that a patient receives a “card” for a perscription (marajuana or otherwise) then I’m pretty sure this is violating HIPPA. If I were the patient and my doctor informed my employer of my treatment I’d be suing the doctor and the employer.

    I’m totally against the medical marajuana ban!

  • http://www.healthfix4life.com Mike M

    Anyone that would say that it is more important to guard the information that an employee is on drugs, regardless of the reason, and puts ALL other employees at risk invites disaster. Impaired employees are just that. It should be the employees responsibility to inform the employer of the impairment. But if they don’t and someone gets hurt, why should the employer have to pay the damages. EMPLOYEES ON DRUGS HURT PEOPLE! Doctors who send employees to work impaired are obligated to keep their patients safe while on medication. This includes informing them what not to do. Operating dangerous machinery is one of them. Informing the employer that a patient is impaired is doing just that. Stopping the impaired employee from hurting themselves while protecting others. Don’t wait until after some one gets hurt.

  • Becky

    I am sort of a fence sitter on the pot being legal/illegal. I just wanted to say that if you expect to be taken seriously, your name on here should not reference an American Pie character. It made me giggle a little.

  • Mike K

    As a safety professional for a construction company I have the right to know if any of the workers are using prescription or non-prescription drugs so that I can be aware of the additional hazards. If the warning on the prescription says do not use while operating heavy equipment, then the user of the medication cannot do that type of work on my jobsite. It is a very difficult task to get that type of information, but I assure you if someone using any prescription drug without notifying me and has an accident or causes an accident on my jobsite because of the effects of the drug he will not be allowed back on my jobsite.

  • Tom A.

    Wow! You hit a hot spot with this one. Never seen as much response on any other topic. The funny part is, you can tell the people who are actually informed vs. those who watched the movies to get their information about the effects of marijuana. The fact that it is illegal is the amazing part to me. I have spent the last 40 years in a postition that has allowed me to watch the performance of employees under the influence of alcohol, pot, prescription drugs, acid, LSD and here’s what I saw.
    I worked with a man who drank on the job, off the job, steadily for years. He was always broke, his wife had many unexplained “accidents”, his children were silent when he was in the room, and there was an excuse for every drink.
    Another man that I’ve known for 40-plus years has consumed pot every evening (not to excess). His work record is spotless, no accidents even thogh he works with equipment and electricity every day. His attendance has been perfect for more than 25 years. His word is indeed his bond, and if you didn’t know him, you’d never believe that his only hidden vice is this one.
    I find id hard to believe that any organisation could tolerate the constant use of alcohol (Holiday Corp Parties), the drugs that are given by physicians for depression ( those that may make you think of suicide) but instead, worry about the use (not abuse) of a drug that has been proven to help many, especially those with chronic pain and those with issues due to cancer and the treatment of it. My wife is a breast cancer survivor and I’ve seen the agony of the results of chemo first hand.

  • Mike J.

    Tom, your pot user is the exception to the rule. No one is arguing what is worse or better, just what is illegal and not. Pot is illegal and generally leads to other less benign drug use. I worked with a guy who was a model employee. He farmed days and worked part time nights to get the benefits. Every day when he got off work at 4 he would get a friend to drop him off at a local bar where he would proceed to drink himself to oblivion. Around 7 his wife would show up to pick him up. He would sleep it off til 2 or 3. Do the chores etc, catch a couple of hours of sleep, come to work at midnight. Never missed a day, always volunteered. All this and your example prove is that drugs, including alcohol, affect people differently. What is OK for one is self destructive for others. The key is use rather than abuse. The line between is a thin one and few can keep from crossing it long term. There is also the issue of legal vrs illegal. An employee willing to risk firing to get high will in all likelihood engage in other at risk behavior because “rules apply to the other guy”.

  • Safety Director

    Comment: Mike J said:

    Pot is illegal and generally leads to other less benign drug use.

    The line between is a thin one and few can keep from crossing it long term.

    An employee willing to risk firing to get high will in all likelihood engage in other at risk behavior because “rules apply to the other guy”.

    Your “generalizations” are unfair, filled with ignorance, a lie, wrong, and continue the hysteria and myth surrounding MJ and especially medical MJ.

    Of course there are knuckleheads in all walks of life. So I do admit that you could find a shoe that fit.

    But if you took all the idiots who abuse MJ to a point where it adversely affects their life or another’s and matched that to the number of people’s lives adversely affected by the LAWS against MJ AND the number of people who are medically benefited by the use of MJ, there would be no arguement.

    All you prohibitionists would shut up. You have no argument.

    The money, the crime, the courts, the prison space, the discrimination, the grief we impose on users is unjust and is simply not worth it. I have so many other valid and important issues to deal with. We all do.

  • Mike J.

    “safety director”??? Minds and mindsets are not changed by name calling and stiffling discussion. Nothing I posted is a “lie, wrong,” nor a product of “hysteria”. I have seen friends start with MJ and progress to other drugs when the MJ no longer gave them a good enough high or as a casual lark. Does this mean that this is the inevitable path of progression? no. But it is a well traveled path. You should take your own advice and “shut up” until you flush the MJ out of your system and can carry on a coherant discussion.

  • Corporate Safety Manager

    I agree with the Safety Director. Prohibitionists are clueless when it comes to the benefits of medical MJ until it’s one of their family members that become ill. The arguments against MJ for medical or social purposes are getting weaker and weaker. Whenever a prohibitionist gets on their “soap box” and starts ranting against MJ I’m truly embarrassed for them.

    Face the reality that changes are coming and even happening right now. Accept it or just go away!

  • Dave

    Mike J. I love it. You bash Safety Director for doing something and then at the end of your post you do the exact same thing. The pathway argument about MJ is old and used. It IS the exception to the rule for a person to do that, not the norm. It is the illegal aspect of MJ that drives others to try “harder” drugs as you would say. It is illegal so they are less apprehensive to trying harder drugs. Let’s take a look at some countries that allow drug use. They have less accidents at work. Less cases of addiction. Less violent crime. Less OTJ injuries. Narrow minded people are the ones that made MJ illegal anyway. As a matter of fact, MJ never made the scientific criteria for a class 1 drug. Nixon, decided to push the agencies into making it a class 1 drug so he would have a reason to arrest the Vietnam protesters. Look it up. Or do you think I need to flush the THC out of my system. Have a beer, it may be more destructive, physically addictive and all the things MJ is not. They just have a more powerful lobby then the MJ crowd. Or maybe you ca have a beer and cigarette……..

  • SD

    Mike J.

    i apologize for being militant on this topic. I detest generalizations because they discriminate against and harm a huge class of people. I did validate your claims by pointing out there are knuckleheads that fit your profile. Again, people need to put it all in perspective. Lives ruined, billions spent, time wasted because of GENERAL statements like yours.

    Generally speaking there is NO VALID argument for the continued prohibition.

    My life has been dedicated to law and justice, I have more blood sweat and tears spent on the enforcement of the nations drug laws. I have worked in a prison, lived with chronic users, drafted and served warrants, I have extensive personal knowledge and experience in all aspects of this particular topic. My passion is a result of seeing the laws bring more harm and create more chaos then the drug ever could.

    Now, all that being said, there is NEVER a time that I would condone or excuse being under the influence of any narcotic or drug, including MJ, while working on a construction site.

  • Mike J.

    There is little doubt that overzealous enforcement or overly harsh punishment can and does cause problems. This being said the answer is to determine when this is the case. There has always been and will always be those that abuse any condition whether it be MJ or the return policy at Wal Mart. My question is still relevant. How can you tell if the person is just getting down off a high or it happened 3 days ago? Since you can not you must, as a safety professional, err on the side of safety and down check the individual in the interest of group safety. The individual knew the consequenses of drug use and chose to partake anyway. If this is their choice of priorities than I have no choice but to enforce the company policy and show them the door.
    Satistically it is true that a person who is willing to break one rule is very much more likely to break others and therefore possibly take other shortcuts. Both of these conditions can have negitive consequences for safety.

  • SD

    Mike J Says: There is little doubt that overzealous enforcement or overly harsh punishment can and does cause problems.
    —————-
    i suppose being arrested for marijuana and then not ever being able to get a fair percentage of good paying jobs, can be viewed as a problem. Or failing a piss test, being fired and then being unemployable in your profession, could be viewed as a problem,

    but, we in the real world, call that a f**king CRISIS. you’re statement makes you appear very callous, arrogant and insensitive (on this topic), which is opposite of my values.

    i dont think i can change your conservative mind Mike, but for others reading this, the one’s on the fence, they will see all your arguments sound good on the surface but lack depth, mislead, discriminate against a significant number of people, can be specifically true but are generally wrong, and cost the taxpayers entirely too much money.

    when you wrap snippets of truth around general misstatements, you can make it sound real good and believable. it takes real effort, as a result, to discern what is fact and what is fiction. in the end, as your policies are shown to be ineffective, positive change will come.

    Our country has thankfully moved away from believing the conservative line and in the last two elections, we have voted in liberals who are (too) slowly passing more compassionate laws.

    as a safety director, i am confident the MJ problem ISN’T a problem, nor will it ever become a problem to my company or employees and I have so many more very important and critical issues to deal with.

  • Mike J.

    Please explain your comments on “depth” and how they “mislead” or “discriminate”. MJ is a choice, not a requirement for all but medical reasons. I have my doubts on the medical front in that there is a tremendous number of drugs out there that in theory should do the trick as well or better than MJ but I leave that to the doctors. Recreational use does indeed disqualify a person from many jobs and professions. It will loose a security clearance, a job, and a career. But that is a CHOICE of the user. It is not descriminatory in a negative sense since the reasons for the descrimination are founded at least in part on reasonable issues such as deminished capacity and impaired judgement while under the influence. The influence can not be turned off with a switch and there is no way to tell how much a person is influenced after the fact. I fail to see this as a conservative or liberal issue, it is a safety issue. Safety should always err on the conservative side because failure to do so will result in injuries and in extreme cases deaths. I guess it boils down to how safe is safe. Are a few injuries acceptable? A few deaths? If you think so than perhaps you should find a new field of work?? I got into this field by chioce because I felt that no injury is accptable and we should all work to eliminate the causes of the injuries in the workplace. MJ abuse, like all substance abuse can and has caused injuries in the workplace. It is a cause of injuries that can and should be eliminated. If you feel

  • sd

    Generally this is a lib/conservative issue, IMHO, and lately i have recognized the hippocracy involved on both sides. It’s just i see one side being more wrong than the other. that being said, we are not that far off on disagreeing (you do have a valid point of view) and i am sure we would be in agreement on most topics when it comes to safety issues.

    having come from law enforcement and walking the line of the constitution in the course of my duty, spending hours upon hours of research and implementation, in court and on the street, i am especially sensitive to its meaning, intent and long term ramifications. my perspective is unique because of my background. most people do not have such a varied, experienced and broad exposure. i am not bragging, only stating a fact. maybe my opinion is dictated by my only recognized handicap on this issue, that of an average IQ.

    the history of outlawing MJ is less than honorable.
    the vilifying of MJ has been a lie.
    the benefits of MJ has been proven.
    the alternate pharmaceutical drugs that MJ replaces are too often more expensive, less effective, significantly more dangerous, addictive causing severe withdrawal symptoms and potentially lethal to the patient.

    Which is exactly why Doctors are advocating and prescribing it despite the archaic laws and why states are bucking the federal prohibition.

    and the legal substance, Alcohol, is exponentially more harmful and detrimental to our community and society, when looking at the recreational use. cops would much rather deal with a “high” person then a drunk person, and they are much safer when doing so.

    Soapbox the prohibition all you want with not necessarily but statistically isolated “horror” stories, as the truth becomes known, MJ will be legalized and taxed, as it should.

    (ya think we beat this topic up enough?)

  • safety dude

    B says:

    MJ is not a measurable source of any problem in our society but the laws created against MJ are a direct result of corporate corruption, government propaganda (mostly federal), and inflict more harm and destruction on our society and THAT is measurable.
    ——————-
    Can anyone refute these claims with a certain level of intelligence?

  • sd

    this is an excerpt from an article and points out the suffering. In this case a prescription was eventually found to help.

    At that point, Hall had been drinking nightly and smoking marijuana in hopes of quieting the nightmares and stealing an hour or two of sleep. But three weeks after he started the medicine, the nightmares began to fade away.

    He said he hasn’t had a drink since the nightmares ceased. And the mental freedom allowed him to visit Washington, D.C., several years ago to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where he saw his friend’s name etched in the black granite.

    Raskind accompanied Hall on the trip.

    “Without him and without the prazosin, I would have killed myself by now,” Hall said. “I know I would have.”

    A few months ago, Hall stopped taking the medication to see what effect it would have. The nightmares returned four days later.

    “This has really kept me alive,” he said. “It’s simple: If it weren’t for this, I would be dead.”

    http://www.thenewstribune.com/topstory/story/993114.html

  • Mike J.

    You can site a dozen alledged “victories” of MJ over anything fro H1N1 to the common cold. The fact that you site a psychiatric condition as what it is “curing” says volumes. This type of condition is all but untrackable for cause, effect, or even if it exists at all. I can site a half dozen friends from college who statrted with MJ “to help them destress” who ended up dropping out of college as the “destressing” became more important that their classes or they progressed through better “destressors”. It still is at best at least as bad a cigarettes even if all the studies which have shown loss of mental capacity with long term use are mistaken. It still deminishes mental capacity whill being used and you still can not tell how long ago the use was nor when the deminishment stops. You drag out alcohol as whipping boy for comparison. There is a big difference. I can tell when someone is drunk and when they are not. I can smeel it, I can see it. There is an estabished limit for blood alcohol level backed by studies to show this. There are no such studies for MJ because it is a drug which has widely differing effects one person to the next. It all falls back to how safe is safe? How many injuries are OK? Is one death OK? What is an amputation between friends? If I can prevent one injury I will do so. That is part of being a safety professional rather than a “safety dude”

  • sd

    INTERESTING COMMENTS ON WASHINGTON STATE LEGISLATION TO LEGALIZE POT.

    murphtall wrote on 12/17/2009 12:47:11 PM:

    I have never met a pot smoker or drug user of any kind who’s gateway drug was not caffeine! Never. Anyone?

    edmeister9000 wrote on 12/17/2009 12:23:11 PM:

    Its odd that during the era of alcohol prohibition you had to associate with the criminal element to recieve it. And since it was the criminal element that controlled other restricted drugs, that made alcohol in effect a “Gateway drug” by defenition. Once its distribution network was taken away and placed under the control of the govt. it lost its role as a gateway drug…

    Incidentally, i read about a study done on driving incidents between 3 groups, drinkers, stoners, and the sober folks, and though it found that drunks were the most dangerous group, it found that the stoners were the safest, as they were more likely than sober folks to slow down and pay attention to what was going on around them…

  • sd

    Representatives pre-file bill to legalize marijuana

    THE NEWS TRIBUNE
    Published: 12/17/09 12:05 am

    Six House Democrats want to legalize pot. Now if only they wanted to tax it enough to solve the budget shortfall, it might have a chance.

    But the six House Democrats who have pre-filed a bill to legalize marijuana for those over age 21 want to use nearly all of the money raised for substance abuse treatment and prevention.

    Still, the sponsors are a pretty mainstream bunch, and there has been some movement in other states to stop treating pot use and possession as a criminal offense. The six are Mary Lou Dickerson and Scott White of Seattle, Roger Goodman of Kirkland, David Upthegrove of Des Moines, Sherry Appleton of Poulsbo and Mary Helen Roberts of Lynnwood.

    House Bill 2401 is 78 pages long. But most of that is to find every reference to marijuana in state law and either remove it from criminal codes or add it to liquor laws. They also would regulate the farming, production and distribution.

    Peter Callaghan, The News Tribune

  • Mike K

    Yes, we have a problem here in Washington State regarding the use of Marijuana. The root of the problem really is that we can’t and don’t trust the politicians to do the right thing. The state of Washington controls the liquor and all of the liquor stores. The control the hours the stores are open and ultimately like it that way. Why is the state in the business of selling alcohol? Now we want this same organization to be in charge of the legalization and distribution of Marijuana and for the proceeds to go toward a social program? I think if we, as citizens, had it to do all over again would not be willing to legalize cigarettes because of the effects it has had on us individually and as a society. Our Nation and state has enough problems as it is, but we want to create one more?