Safety Council spotlights workplace perils of cannabis consumption

Sources: National Safety Council, Itasca, Ill.; CP staff

The National Safety Council calls on employers to ban the use of cannabis, regardless of state laws on consumption of the substance, for workers in safety sensitive positions, where execution of duties impacts the well being of the employees themselves and co-workers. 

“We urge employers to implement policies stating no amount of cannabis consumption is acceptable for those who work in safety sensitive positions,” said NSC CEO Lorraine Martin upon the release of a Council position statement on consumption of the drug and workplace safety. “Research clearly shows that cannabis impacts a person’s psychomotor skills and cognitive ability. In order to protect our employees and those around them, we need to acknowledge the impairing effects of cannabis.”

Of employers responding to a 2019 NSC survey, 81 percent were concerned about the drug having a negative impact on their workforce; 71 percent indicated their organization’s written policies cover employee use of illicit cannabis, while only 54 percent said their policies cover employee use of legal or prescribed cannabis; and, 24 percent indicated they would dismiss an employee found to be misusing legal cannabis, such as being under the influence while on the job, while only 7 percent said they would relocate the employee to a position of lesser responsibility.

NSC cites studies showing that those under the influence of cannabis can have difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, and experience impaired body movement or memory; altered senses; difficulty with thinking and problem-solving; changes in mood; and, at high doses, hallucinations and delusions. These effects can lead to deadly consequences for those working in safety sensitive positions and those around them contends the Council, which supports moving employees consuming cannabis for medical purposes to non-safety sensitive operational positions.

Although cannabis remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I drug, NSC calls for an increase in research to discover a way to detect impairment from the drug and gain a better understanding of its effect on the human mind and body.


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