Safety Group to Employers: Prohibit Cannabis Use for Jobs that Pose Physical Risks

Organization says even legal cannabis use is dangerous for workers in safety-sensitive positions.

October 23, 2019

The National Safety Council has called on employers to prohibit cannabis consumption for workers in safety-sensitive positions, even if it’s legal in their respective state.

The nonprofit health and safety organization issued a policy position on Oct. 21 that stated  “there is no level of cannabis use that is safe or acceptable for employees who work in safety sensitive positions.” The organization recommended that employers relocate workers who use cannabis medicinally to non-safety sensitive operational positions.

The National Safety Council cited figures from a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse that concluded employees who tested positive for cannabis had 55% more industrial incidents, 85% more injuries and 75% greater absenteeism than workers who tested negative for cannabis use.

The organization also cited its own survey findings in a news release that indicated employers are concerned about cannabis use in the workplace. According to the 2019 survey, 81% of employers “were concerned about the drug having a negative impact on their workforce.” In addition, 24% of respondents said they would fire an employee who was “misusing legal cannabis, such as being under the influence while on the job.” A smaller number of employers, 7%, said they would relocate an employee who misused legal cannabis to a position of lesser responsibility.

“Research clearly shows that cannabis impacts a person's psychomotor skills and cognitive ability," said Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. "In order to protect our employees and those around them, we need to acknowledge the impairing effects of cannabis. We urge employers to implement policies stating no amount of cannabis consumption is acceptable for those who work in safety sensitive positions."

The safety council added that it expects the American Industrial Hygienists Association to support its position while “companies supporting cannabis decriminalization will oppose the position.”