With the rapid increase of recreational cannabis consumption and its legalization in different countries, there is a growing concern about the negative impacts of cannabis on worker performance.
When the Trudeau government legalized recreational marijuana in Canada back in October 2018, many industry experts and human resources professionals were worried that this would affect the productivity of the workers and endanger workplace safety.
Although random drug testing is banned in Canada, and many states in the US, both countries’ employers are allowed to conduct workplace drug testing for those considered safety-sensitive employees. According to a recent survey, at least 50% of US employers will likely fire a worker who has been tested positive for cannabis.
Most common misconceptions about cannabis on worker performance are born from social stigma. Most, if not all of them, lack scientific basis. There has been very little research on the relationship between work performance and cannabis.
This post discusses what we know so far. What are the employers’ opinions on this issue? What do the experts have to say about it? Read this article to know more about the different views on the effects of cannabis on worker performance.
Effect of cannabis on worker performance – how is ‘impairment’ defined?
It is a common belief that the use of cannabis causes poor attendance and reduced productivity at the workplace. Canadian employers, much like their counterparts in the US, are allowed to formulate their own internal policies on impairment caused by cannabis and prohibiting the use of cannabis inside work premises.
On the other hand, the Canadian Human Rights Act states that “employers have a duty to accommodate a person with substance dependence to the point of undue hardship.”
After the legalization of recreational weed in Canada, one of the major challenges faced by employers and organizations has been how to define impairment from cannabis. In the absence of a clear legal definition of impairment and a standard testing protocol for it, it is hard for them to devise new workplace rules and policies. How much cannabis in your blood should ideally make you ‘impaired’? Do different jobs and workplaces require fixing this level differently?
Marijuana can stay in your system and show up in the drug tests from 24-48 hours to a month depending on how frequently you use it. In this context, how do we determine whether a person is still impaired or has low productivity? There is no clear, universally accepted guideline.
What are the possible impairment effects of cannabis on worker performance?
There is not enough study on the exact effects of cannabis on worker performance. However, there is sufficient evidence suggesting cannabis is counter-productive when taken during working hours. According to Health Canada, this may include:
- Elevated heart rate
- Disorientation and confusion
- Impaired perception, concentration and motor skills
- Impaired memory and cognition
- Anxiety and paranoia
These effects can reduce productivity levels. A study by the University College of London found that marijuana use can affect your mood and motivation. A 2015 report published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine suggested there is a close link between workplace accidents and drug use which includes cannabis.
New researches reveal the limited impact of cannabis on worker performance
Still, there is no denying the fact that all-natural marijuana does less harm to your body and mind compared to other drugs.
The Global Drug Survey in 2017 declared cannabis to be the second safest after magic mushrooms. Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML, a non-profit organization fighting for the reform of marijuana laws in the US, says, ‘Suspicionless marijuana testing in the workplace has never been an evidence-based policy. Rather, these discriminatory practices are a holdover from the zeitgeist of the 1980s ‘war on drugs.’ But times have changed, attitudes have changed, and in many places, the marijuana laws have changed. It is time for workplace policies to adapt to this new reality.’
A recent study has claimed that marijuana, in certain conditions, doesn’t affect your job performance. After compiling data collected from 281 employees and their direct 7supervisors, researchers from the San Diego State University and Auburn University have concluded that after-hours consumption of cannabis has no negative impact on your performances at the workplace. Moreover, they claim that after-hours cannabis use can even provide some benefits to your work performance. The therapeutic effects of cannabis will help you to deal with the work pressure better.
Dr. Jeremy Bernerth, the lead author of the study, says, ‘Individuals deciding to consume cannabis after finishing their work may be able to distract themselves from stressful on-the-job issues.’ ‘The relaxation induced by cannabis may help employees restore energy spent during the day and they may subsequently return with more stamina to devote to their job once they are back on the clock’, Bernerth adds.
He believes in light of this new research employers should shake off their old taboos and stop banning all types of cannabis uses by the workers. ‘The findings,’ Bernerth emphasizes, ‘are obviously consequential for scholars and organizations who believe that all cannabis use negatively impacts workplace behaviors.’
With the increasing consumption of marijuana and growing awareness about its health benefits, the attitude of the employees and organizations are gradually changing. In this fast-changing reality, a zero-tolerance workplace policy for all kinds of cannabis use can never be enforceable or advisable.
Though more scientific researches are required to ascertain the exact effects of cannabis on worker performance, it can be safely assumed that using marijuana after work rarely affects your performance or working abilities the next day. An unrestricted overuse, however, can always be disadvantageous for your work or your health in general. Unless and until you are overdoing it, consuming marijuana after work can have some benefits for your work life.