CO: Too Many Cannabis Industry Employees Impaired At Work

Photo Credit: Brennan Linsley

It seems the multi-billion dollar cannabis industry is having some problems with its employees showing up to work stoned. A recent study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine finds that a large percentage of those employed in the businesses of growing and selling weed are getting high either before work at some point during business hours — risking both their safety and that of their co-workers.

It is a predicament that stems from a lack of attention to the implementation and enforcement of workplace safety regulations, the study finds. The overall message is if the cannabis industry wants to be taken as seriously as its primary competitor, Big Alcohol, then it might want to get its act together and start bringing down the hammer on workplace impairment.

It was not that long ago when brew houses all across the United States used to allow workers to drink beer during their breaks and at lunch time, but problems surrounding this practice eventually brought at-work booze consumption to a screeching halt.

The latest findings suggest that the cannabis industry has yet to make this determination.

Not only are some cannabis businesses not properly training workers on how to deal with potential occupational hazards,  upper management sometimes allows employees to handle dangerous chemicals and equipment under the influence of marijuana.

Researchers at Colorado State University found a whopping 63 percent of Colorado’s cannabis industry workers have shown up to work high in the past month. Another 45 percent said they have smoked marijuana during business hours.

“There is an imminent need to establish formal health and safety training to implement best practices,” the study authors wrote.

Perhaps the most unnerving aspect of the study is the fact that it implicates cannabis industry workers in the act of stoned driving. The idea that around half of the industry’s employees are potentially driving to work high is a far cry for the “responsible use” that was promised when advocates started pushing several years ago to “legalize marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.”

Driving under the influence of marijuana is still a punishable offense in legal states. Although driving drunk has been proven far more dangerous than driving stoned, anyone busted for this “crime” is still subject to arrest and prosecution. This can lead to a conviction for DUID (driving under the influence of drugs) and a suspension of driving privileges. While some people feel that marijuana makes them better drivers, operating a vehicle stoned is considered a threat to public safety and should be taken seriously. Especially with U.S Attorney General Jeff Sessions looking for one solid reason to swoop in and cripple the entire industry.

By comparison, the alcohol industry has been forced to crack down on on-site consumption and the inadvertent enabling of drinking and driving throughout the years to keep from feeling the wrath of Uncle Sam.

It was once common for brewers and other alcohol manufacturers to let employees consume booze during businesses hours. But when people started having accidents on the job and even fatal accidents on the streets, the industry had no choice but to change its policies. These days, the alcohol trade treats its workers to both free and discounted products to be sampled and enjoyed safely at home. The cannabis industry cannot yet provide its employees with those types of benefits. But, like the alcohol industry, it can bring into play policies that call for repercussions for those workers who insist on showing up to work impaired.

In conclusion, the study authors found that “Colorado cannabis workers… regularly consumed cannabis, expressed low concerns about workplace hazards, reported some occupational injuries and exposures, and reported inconsistent training practices.”

Perhaps it is time to do better?