Navigating the Marijuana Minefield

"Keep on top of the laws, they are changing as we speak," advised Eldeen Pozniak, a panelist at Safety 2019's panel discussion on marijuana legalization.

Like many observers, I'm surprised at the speed with which voters and legislators in most U.S. states have legalized medical or recreational use of marijuana, sometimes both. These legalization measures have created a legal minefield for employers and their safety and HR personnel; just how unsettled the landscape is was made clear by an outstanding June 12 panel discussion at the American Society of Safety Professionals' Safety 2019 Conference and Exposition. To me, the discussion left as many questions unanswered as answered.

Calling the laws regarding legal medical marijuana a "crazy quilt," panelist Adele Abrams, president of the Law Office of Adele Abrams, PC, described some of the legalization measures enacted by 34 states and the District of Columbia and how courts are interpreting them. "Keep on top of the laws, they are changing as we speak," advised another panelist, Eldeen Pozniak of Pozniak Safety Associates, Inc. in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Thom Kramer, managing principal at LJB Inc. and an ASSP board member, moderated the discussion. The other two panelists were Dr. Marcos Iglesias, M.D., senior vice president and chief medical officer at Broadspire; and Stephanie Hopper, CEO of KSF Consulting in Denver, Colo., whose company is involved in the cannabis industry. Iglesias spoke most strongly about what he described as the problems legalizing marijuana is causing. When an audience member asked what test a safety professional or employer can conduct to prove a worker is impaired by marijuana, Iglesias explained that, unlike with alcohol, for marijuana there is no test. "There isn't one, and I doubt there will be one in the near future," he said. "That's not coming for many years for marijuana, if at all." He stressed that employers should focus on detecting and responding to impairment, regardless of its cause, rather than focusing on whether marijuana is causing it. "It's really about safety. It's not about the substance," he said.

Asked what safety professionals in the audience should advise their senior management to do in the face of legalization, Pozniak said, "If you have a drug and alcohol policy, change it to a 'fit for work' policy," defining what fitness for work is, identifying safety-sensitive positions at the company, and training managers to recognize impairment. Hopper recommended creating a "see something, say something" culture and one where workers will help one another, which will prevent cover-ups, she said.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

Product Showcase

  • Magid® D-ROC® GPD412 21G Ultra-Thin Polyurethane Palm Coated Work Gloves

    Magid’s 21G line is more than just a 21-gauge glove, it’s a revolutionary knitting technology paired with an advanced selection of innovative fibers to create the ultimate in lightweight cut protection. The latest offering in our 21G line provides ANSI A4 cut resistance with unparalleled dexterity and extreme comfort that no other 21-gauge glove on the market can offer! Read More

  • Kestrel 5400 Heat Stress Tracker WBGT Monitoring for Workplace Safety

    Ensure safety with the Kestrel® 5400 Heat Stress Tracker, the go-to choice for safety professionals and endorsed by the Heat Safety & Performance Coalition. This robust, waterless WBGT meter is ideal for both indoor and outdoor environments, offering advanced monitoring and data logging essential for OSHA compliance. It features pre-programmed ACGIH guidelines and alert settings to quickly signal critical conditions. Integrated with the cloud-based Ambient Weather Network, the 5400 allows managers to view, track, and log job site conditions remotely, ensuring constant awareness of potential hazards. Its capability for real-time mobile alerts and remote data access promotes proactive safety management and workplace protection, solidifying its role as a crucial tool in industrial hygiene. Read More

  • Matrix's OmniPro Vision AI Collision Avoidance System

    OmniPro Vision AI is a state-of-the-art collision avoidance system that features NIOSH award-winning Visual Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. This highly accurate, powerful system identifies and alerts on pedestrians, vehicles and specified objects, ensuring safer facilities, mining operations and industrial sites. With its web-based cloud application, OmniPro Vision AI also logs and analyzes a wide range of data related to zone breach notifications. Operating without needing personal wearable devices or tags, OmniPro has visual and audible zone breach alerts for both operators and pedestrians. Read More

Featured

Webinars