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Medical marijuana is no longer an experimental idea embraced by a handful of state governments. It’s commonplace now, found to some degree in 37 states. And with commonplace access come commonplace problems.

Marijuana SmokingOne of the biggest dilemmas facing the world of legal cannabis pits employers concerned about workplace safety against workers who need medical marijuana to treat diseases. Should employees be allowed to use cannabis as medicine even when their bosses want to maintain “drug-free” work zones?

The Colorado Supreme Court recently ruled that they shouldn’t. The decision was taken as a sign that patients who use MMJ will be out of luck when it comes to employment, forcing them to choose one or the other. Advocates saw it as a major defeat.

But that may not be the end of the story. As Business Insurance magazine reports, a small but growing number of companies are tackling the issue head on, granting their workers the right not only to use medical marijuana, but to use it on the job.

1 in 5 SMEs would allow MMJ at work

A study released in November concluded that one in five small businesses would let workers use prescribed medical cannabis while on the job, according to Business Insurance. The study was produced by EMPLOYERS, a Nevada company that provides workers’ comp. insurance services, and it found 19 percent of business owners would allow cannabis use by workers with valid prescriptions, while 62 percent would not and 17 percent said they were unsure.

“We encourage all small businesses to maintain drug-free workplaces because employees who are under the influence of illicit substances, or misuse or abuse prescription drugs, can put themselves, other employees or customers at risk of injury or other harm,” said Dwight Robertson, EMOLOYERS’ medical director. “The most important step employers can take is to have a clearly documented workplace safety policy that specifically addresses drug use in the workplace.”

EMPLOYERS favors complete prohibition of cannabis use at work, but the study suggests that view is far from universal. Fully 42 percent of small business owners said they have no written policy to prevent workers from using on the job, while 74 percent have no drug test requirement.

Medical marijuana now widely available

mmj leafA large majority, 81 percent, said they don’t worry that workers will show up to work high, even following legalization in four states and the District of Columbia. Intoxicating forms of the drug are allowed for medicinal use in those states plus another 22, while a non-intoxicating marijuana oil is legal in another 11 states.

Only 10 percent of the businesses surveyed said they do notice workers showing up under the influence of marijuana, alcohol, opiate painkillers, or other intoxicants. The study included telephone interviews with the owners of 501 small businesses in the United States that employ fewer than 100 people. It was conducted in May.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Would you allow your staff to use medical marijuana at work? Let us know in the comments.


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About the Author: Matt Brooks

Matt is a journalist from San Francisco who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than six years.

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