What’s Included in a Drug-Free Workplace Policy?

HR leaders must rethink traditional assumptions about drugs in the workplace.
By: | July 16, 2018 • 7 min read
Drug abuse problem issues and concepts word cloud illustration. Word collage concept.

There are many reasons for employers to promote and enforce a drug-free workplace policy and to engage in drug testing of employees. Some employers are mandated by law to have drug testing programs. Many employers choose to drug test employees because of safety-sensitive positions, reductions in rates for workers’ compensation insurance or the employers simply want to ensure that their employees are not impaired.

The typical focus of an employer’s drug-free policy is illegal drugs, so how do employers deal with both the legalization of formerly illegal drugs, like marijuana, and the abuse of legal drugs, like opioids and alcohol? State law, federal law and decisions interpreting those laws have created a patchwork of regulations that is beginning to upend the traditional assumptions about drugs in the workplace.

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Marijuana: Is It Legal or Illegal?

Many states have legalized the medical use of marijuana, some states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and some states have decriminalized the use of marijuana.

Under federal law, possession of any amount of marijuana remains a crime. Recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a memorandum that directed all U.S. Attorneys to enforce the Controlled Substances Act, which prohibits the cultivation, distribution, and possession of marijuana. In deciding which marijuana-related activities to prosecute, the Attorney General directed prosecutors to follow the principles established by the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual and to weigh all relevant considerations, including federal law enforcement priorities set by the Attorney General, the seriousness of the crime, the deterrent effect of criminal prosecution, and the cumulative impact of particular crimes on the community. The memorandum also rescinded Obama administration guidance that took a laissez-faire stance on the enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized either medical or recreational use.

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