Educational ResourcesThe American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN) and the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) have published guidance for employers aimed at helping them better understand the implications of marijuana use on the workforce as attitudes toward marijuana and laws restricting it continue to change.

On-the-job impairment, laws, monitoring strategies

The guidance paper, jointly published this month in ACOEM’s Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM) and AAOHN’s journal Workplace Health & Safety (WH&S), summarizes current evidence regarding marijuana consumption; discusses possible side effects, including temporary impairment as it relates to the workplace; reviews existing federal and state laws that impact employers; and suggests various strategies available for monitoring marijuana use among employees.

“Marijuana is the most frequently used illicit drug of abuse in the United States and around the world,” said ACOEM President Kathryn Mueller, MD. “At the same time, it is, by a wide margin, the drug most often detected in workplace drug testing programs. With rapidly changing attitudes and laws regarding marijuana use, employers need to examine their current policies and be prepared for potential impacts on workforce as these trends continue.”

Practical steps

“As two organizations committed to the health and safety of workers, it makes sense for us to address the potential consequences of workforce marijuana use on employers, ranging from the risk and associated cost of adverse events to the possible loss of productivity,” said AAOHN President Jeannie Tomlinson. “This guidance offers practical steps that any employer can take to ensure their impairment and drug-testing policies are effective and that jobs are being performed safely.”

Lead author Jennan A. Phillips, PhD, MSN, RN, and colleagues from AAOHN and ACOEM conducted a comprehensive literature search of currently available scientific evidence regarding effects of marijuana use on workers, as well as a broad examination of the legal implications of rapidly evolving marijuana legislation and policies — both at the state and federal level. The researchers also examined medical implications of marijuana use for the workforce, including the risk of injury due to impairment — which may occur as legalized and more widely available marijuana-containing products are increasingly used by workers.

Drug testing, employee education

The guidance includes detailed examination of current workplace drug-testing trends and best practices. The authors conclude by offering eight recommendations for employers, ranging from suggestions for effective drug testing and employee education programs to policies regarding off-work use of marijuana.

“The safety of workers and the public must be central to all workplace policies and employers must clearly articulate that legalization of marijuana for recreational or medical use does not negate workplace policies for safe job performance,” the guidance states. “The evolving legal situation on medical and recreational marijuana requires employers to consult with legal experts to craft company policy and clarify implications of impaired on-duty workers. This changing environment surrounding marijuana use requires close collaboration between employers, occupational health professionals, and legal experts to ensure workplace safety is not compromised.”

The full-text guidance document is available at (JOEM) and (WH&S).