Cannabis in the Workplace: Survey Says it's Complicated

Despite increased legalization, NSC research shows cannabis use poses significant workplace safety and performance issues.

October 05, 2021

Itasca, IL -- The National Safety Council, America’s leading nonprofit safety advocate, released results of a survey conducted as part of an ongoing effort to assess the risks of cannabis in the workplace, and the results are clear: Employers must do more to educate and protect their workers. The survey, conducted between April and May 2021 with responses representing 500 employers and 1,000 employees, showed significant gaps in knowledge and safety.

According to this survey, cannabis can have a major impact on the safety of employees, and cannabis legalization is creating new challenges for employers. In fact, one-third of employees say they have observed cannabis use during work hours. The survey also found that:

  • Less than half of organizations have a written policy addressing cannabis
  • Employees are in need of clear communication about cannabis and employer policy
  • More than half of employers that eliminated THC testing reported seeing an increase in incidents or other workplace performance concerns
  • Despite what employers believe, less than half of employees reported they would feel comfortable telling supervisors they were too impaired to work

NSC believes it is the responsibility of the employer to develop a culture of safety, accountability and honesty among its employees as it pertains to cannabis, regardless of legality.

“As more states legalize cannabis for recreational and medicinal use, employers must take clear, strong stances to ensure worker safety,” said Lorraine Martin, NSC president and CEO. “Research clearly shows that cannabis impacts a person’s ability to safely perform their job, and we hope employers everywhere will heed our recommendations.” 

To help employers address the risks of cannabis in the workplace, NSC developed employer guidance that encourages business leaders to take the following key actions:

  • Establish a clear, fair cannabis policy that prevents impairment in the workplace and provides support for employees
  • Build a safety-focused, trusting culture for employees to report cannabis use in the workplace
  • Advocate for increased access to employee assistance programs and health care benefits for those with substance use disorders
  • Train supervisors to recognize and respond to impairment in the workplace

NSC will share additional employer recommendations and launch the Impairment Recognition and Response Training for Supervisors at the 2021 NSC Safety Congress & Expo in Orlando, Florida, in October. The following sessions will be held at the conference:

  • Monday, Oct. 11, 10:30 a.m. ET:  Workplace Impairment Recognition and Response
  • Tuesday, Oct. 12, 11:30 a.m. ET: Cannabis and Safety
  • Wednesday, Oct. 13, 11:30 a.m. ET: Workplace Impairment Recognition and Response 

About the National Safety Council
The National Safety Council is America’s leading nonprofit safety advocate – and has been for over 100 years. As a mission-based organization, we work to eliminate the leading causes of preventable death and injury, focusing our efforts on the workplace, roadway and impairment. We create a culture of safety to not only keep people safer at work, but also beyond the workplace so they can live their fullest lives.

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