Human Resources

Where Marijuana Is Legal HR Policy Needs to Adjust

Where Marijuana Is Legal HR Policy Needs to Adjust
Image credit: REUTERS | Lucy Nicholson

We live in a changing time. After more than seven decades of prohibition, cannabis is becoming legal in more states and countries. Consumers across three generations are finding the plant and utilizing it as a recreational substance, as well as a cure for many different ailments.

As of now, 23 states and the District of Columbia allow for some type of legalized marijuana consumption. Whether you agree or disagree with the movement, wide-scale cannabis legalization is upon us.

So, how can employers integrate cannabis into the framework of employee relations? This topic speaks to me specifically as a business leader and co-founder of a tech company in the cannabis industry. Prior to entering the cannabis industry I guided corporate structural change for some of the world’s top brands.

We have long relied on the almighty drug test as the sole vehicle for determining an employee’s substance issues, all but ignoring larger and more complex mental health issues. But the “quick fix” drug test is inconsistent, at best, and should never be the sole reason for termination.

If we turn our attention to impairment instead of just drug use, it may be easier to ensure that our employees are performing at optimal levels:

1: Set strict standards.

Whether an employee works in finance or in the warehouse, he or she needs to know what standards are expected. Employees should be held to a level that can be easily articulated, with a metric that can be effectively measured. No one can help you determine impairment if you don’t have standards set in stone.

Related: Why Your Company Needs an Up-to-Date Marijuana Policy

2: Leave assumptions at the door.

I’ve been proven wrong when I’ve assumed the cause of someone’s impairment at work is drug related. The actual causes were always something like stress, trouble at home or depression -- not drug use.

3: Determine impairment.

If you begin to see a decline in performance by any one person, you need to determine what is causing the drop. One evaluation method I like is computer-based testing provided by Valuation Research.  After a baseline is established, employees can be randomly tested to see if their minds and actions are impaired. At one start-up I helped lead, we had an on-staff therapist who would talk to employees, determine impairment and suggest treatment or solution options. This type of testing does not require a humiliating urine test and can uncover catalysts to impairment, like hangover, lack of sleep and prescription medication interferences.

Related: How This E-Cig Franchise Is Moving Into Marijuana

Step 4: Take action.

If you have determined (from computer based testing or otherwise) that there is, in fact, some type of impairment, allow the employee to explain Give him or her the opportunity to correct the behavior. We give those addicted to alcohol treatment options rather firing them, but we immediately test, label and terminate the medical cannabis consumer.

We should be working to empower and inspire employees to heighten performance by encouraging their overall mental and physical health.

It’s time to treat all employees as genuine “human resources.” Random drug tests are not the solution for companies that wish to attract and retain top talent, especially in states like Colorado where cannabis is completely legal. If we wouldn’t fire an employee who shows up to work hungover, we shouldn’t fire someone for using cannabis recreationally over the weekend.

Every person on my team consumes cannabis. Some are only weekend consumers, some medicate daily. Most of us consume for recreational reasons and for medical benefit, yet our company has broken nearly every record in the tech social app space. We all show up to work on time and often accomplish more tasks in a given day than I’ve witnessed at many other companies.

I see a future in which companies led by thoughtful leaders and HR professionals will look more closely at employees and recognize them as people. I know if someone on my team began to slip in performance I would take them for a walk and inquire as to what was wrong. My first reaction certainly would not be to make him or her urinate into a cup.

Related: Voters Approve Legal Marijuana in Oregon, Alaska and D.C.