Marijuana legalization continues to spread, as 33 states now allow for its medical use and Canada recently legalized recreational use throughout the entire country. But businesses need to determine how marijuana will affect their workers’ compensation claims, workplace policies and drug screening plans.

Scientists have determined that marijuana can relieve pain and has other medical uses. However, the federal government continues to consider it a Schedule I drug because of its potential to significantly impair a user and lead to drug abuse. As a result, researchers are reluctant to begin definitive studies on marijuana’s long-term medical benefits and side effects.

Marijuana’s dual identity as a legitimate medical treatment and casual psychotropic can lead to significant problems for businesses. Here are some of the marijuana developments over the past year and how they could affect your workplace:

  • Growing acceptance—A report from Pew Research found that 62% of Americans support marijuana legalization. As a result, customers and job candidates may not be attracted to businesses with strict drug-free policies.
  • Opioid epidemic—The widespread and dangerous use of opioids have led many state governments and businesses to consider medical marijuana, which can also relieve pain. However, each state has different regulations for how medical marijuana is paid for and businesses need to examine their local laws.
  • Workplace drug screenings—Positive tests for marijuana increased by 4% in the general workforce from 2016 to 2017, according to Quest Diagnostics. Positive tests after a workplace incident can be difficult scenarios for employers, since tests can’t accurately determine impairment levels or when the drug was taken.
  • Workers’ compensation—Recent court cases have found that employers may have to pay for employees’ medical marijuana through workers’ compensation plans. However, individual states continue to set their own regulations and some may give businesses or insurance carriers the option to provide or deny coverage at their discretion.

© 2019 Zywave, Inc.