How Cannabis Legalization Is Changing the Workplace


The legalization of cannabis use is continuously growing. Despite being considered an illegal substance on a federal level by the US Controlled Substances Act, 33 states have legalized cannabis for medical and recreational use.

Due to its calming effects (Stith et al., 2020), there is growing support for legalizing cannabis in the remaining states. Due to this trend, cannabis legalization is changing the workplace. Today, companies and human resources are carefully navigating the complicated drug testing policies and procedures in the workplace.

With conflicting state laws and other issues, employers are wondering how to respond. Companies must have a clear position on marijuana use in the workplace.

Will It Affect Work In General

With the number of states legalizing marijuana use, more cannabis products are now available and accessible in stores and cannabis dispensaries in Colorado for public consumption.

With the significant rise of users, it is expected that employers will be prompted to think about the effects of cannabis use on their employees.

Are these cannabis-using employees still fit to work? Will this affect work productivity and safety?

Productivity & Safety

Will employees’ output at the end of the day be the same in terms of quality and quantity under the influence of cannabis?

According to the Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace, a non-profit organization, lower productivity, increased absenteeism as well as increased work-related injuries and accidents are the negative impacts of cannabis use. Based on compiled research, it is also noted that cannabis users have more work-related injuries compared to non-users.

Will cannabis-using workers be able to safely drive to and from work? Companies should ensure that their employees must be able to consistently perform their duties by coming to work on time, all the time. Thus, they must have a clear position on marijuana use to ensure employees’ safety and productivity while maintaining quality.


Cannabis has long been used for generations in a medicinal capacity, but despite its widespread medical and recreational use, users still need to acquire explicit authorization from a licensed physician or medical practitioner to manage their medical condition.

That said, it is still possible to accommodate applicants and employees who use cannabis for their health. Some states have disability laws to protect medical cannabis users.

For example, in Arizona, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees and job applicants for testing positive for marijuana or for being a medical marijuana user unless the employee was impaired during the employment.

The Future of the Workplace in Relation to Marijuana Use

Cannabis law is constantly changing, which affects producers, farmers, retailers, companies, employers, workers, and the general public.

Companies should have a clear policy about cannabis use in the workplace to better protect the key stakeholders while maintaining a fair, healthy, and safe workplace. With a comprehensive outline of cannabis use, employers and human resources personnel are aligned in implementing legally compliant and effective rules.

The number of states as well as other countries that have legalized medical and recreational cannabis use may expand in the coming years. There is more to come with marijuana use and legalization. But what is important for now is for employees to keep an eye on these changes.


Stith, S. S., Li, X., Diviant, J. P., Brockelman, F. C., Keeling, K. S., Hall, B., & Vigil, J. M. (2020). The effectiveness of inhaled Cannabis flower for the treatment of agitation/irritability, anxiety, and common stress. Journal of Cannabis Research, 2(1).

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