November 14, 2021

Cannabis in the Workplace on the Rise

The National Safety Council published Understanding Cannabis in the Workplace, a new report summarizing the results of a survey issued to 1,000 employees and 500 employers to assess the risks of cannabis in the workplace.

The survey was given to individuals across the nation, featuring individuals from various industries, roles, and from companies of various sizes.

Across employees, 48% identified themselves as cannabis users. Among that population:

  • 38% were recreational users
  • 35% used CBD products not containing THC
  • 34% used CBD products containing THC
  • 27% used legally obtained medical cannabis products
  • 20% used Delta-8 products*

*The main psychoactive compound that gets marijuana users high, commonly known as THC, is actually more scientifically known as Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – one specific THC compound among many. Delta-8 THC is considered less potent (though science has yet to prove this conclusively) and Delta-8 products are moreso considered hemp-based products, and therefore not subject to the same restrictions as standard marijuana.

The study found that employers and employees are divided on cannabis use. Eight out of ten employers are concerned about the use of recreational cannabis, Delta-8 products, and CBD products, though they are less concerned with medical cannabis. Employers view cannabis use as tied to mistakes on the job and absenteeism.

Meanwhile, only one-third of employees saw occasional cannabis use as unacceptable. Employees who identified themselves as cannabis users were far more likely to view the usage cannabis products – be they medical, recreational, CBD, etc. – as acceptable than non-users.

However, frequent use of cannabis, despite type of product, was seen as less acceptable than occasional use among employees. Furthermore, across the board employees highly agreed that use of medicinal cannabis during work hours can impair performance. Approximately 75% of employees believe that cannabis impairs driving and the use of heavy machinery, 71% agreed that cannabis impairs reaction time, and 68% agree it reduces the ability to concentrate.

An alarming find was that one-third of employees have observed cannabis use during work hours. However, in an unexpected development, younger workers were far more likely to report observing the usage of cannabis products than older employees.

The study highlights a great need to align workplace cannabis policies between employees and employers. Approximately 71% of employers believe employees would be comfortable telling supervisors that they are too impaired to work, but only 42% of employees reported they would actually be comfortable doing so.

Furthermore, over half of employers that eliminated THC testing report an increase in incident or other workplace performance concerns. Less than half of organizations have a written policy addressing cannabis.

However, both employers and employees saw opioid use, even with a prescription, as a higher risk than medical cannabis when used during work hours, though use of medical cannabis was viewed as presenting greater risk than fatigue and OTC medications. Employees felt that using CBD products containing THC during work hours was less of a risk than opioids, OTC medications, fatigue, alcohol, or opioids – prescription or illicit.

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