Medical Marijuana in the Workplace

29March 2019

Medical Marijuana in the Workplace is a hot pressing question these days. With widespread legalization across the United States (33 states as of writing this article), medical marijuana is relatively new territory for many employers and HR personnel.

Rapid and significant changes to the traditional legal status of marijuana have raised numerous questions over the suitability of this new medication for employers. The moot question is what new company regulations need to be set that cater to medical marijuana use at the workplace? Do corporates treat cannabis users the same way as the casual smoker in the designated smoke-room? Or, is there a need for stricter regulations?

In the face of all of this, we have compiled a list of basic things that employers should know. Scroll down to find out what research studies say about this. pressing issue.

What does the current law in NY say about Marijuana?

At present, Marijuana is being legally permitted for recreational use across the borders of New York State. However, the State has had a disciplinary stance on its consumption. It only allows people with medically obtained certifications to prescriptively obtain the required dosage of the drug. However, there is a possibility that these regulations may not stick for long as the State Council is holding numerous sessions to hear the benefits that proper legalization could bring to the market.

Would Medicated Employees be Impaired at Work?

Employers do have the right to prohibit the use of non-medical marijuana at the workplace. This applies to using cannabis for recreational purposes at work. The regulations are set in much the same way as they are with alcohol at the work place. Employers may prohibit the use of marijuana-related products during office hours in particular.  These rules would relate to the non-medical use of marijuana in the work location, and can be enforced by all employers.

What About Medical Marijuana In The Office?

When it comes to Medical Marijuana, employers will have the duty to accommodate any prescriptive use. This is usually meant for employees suffering from chronic pain or any other condition that requires the use of MMJ as diagnosed by a certified practitioner. These employees will be accommodated in the same way as those employees who take prescribed drugs to treat certain medical conditions.


We have searched but could find any major published studies relating to the impact of recreational marijuana usage in the workplace and employee performance. The only data available in this regard is from the annual report of a private drug-testing company based in the United States. The study has found that the rate of positive cannabis tests results through urine samples have drastically increased more in states that have legalized the recreational use of cannabis. However, since these results are based on the number of tests conducted rather than the number of workers, we cannot tell whether this points towards an increased use of cannabis within the workplace.

Several research studies have also studied how the use of  recreational marijuana impacts workplace outcomes, such as absenteeism and injuries. Many of these studies have found an association between the use of marijuana in the workplace and reduced productivity, work absenteeism rates, disciplinary measures, job turnovers, interpersonal conflicts, accidents and injuries and unemployment. However, the resulting data from many of these studies is still inconsistent and inconclusive. Many of these studies are not authoritatively published by a recognized health or industry association.

Having said that, all we can say is that employers have a duty to accommodate the use of medical marijuana for employees suffering from major disabilities or chronic conditions that warrant its use in the workplace.

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