Up in Smoke - Adapting Drug Policies

Posted: Nov 5, 2014
Views: 1550 - Comments: 5

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Well, it happened. Last night here in Oregon, we legalized marijuana. I have to hand it to the pro marijuana people. Their campaign was pretty strong. They promised lower crime rates, more tax money for schools, and more time for courts to focus on important things like rape and murder. Can't get more important than rape and murder. . .

I don't really know how everything will turn out crime wise, but for employers the hot topic of marijuana just got hotter. I'll start with what I do know. It is still legal to require employees to be sober at work. Because marijuana is a newly legalized drug this is sometimes a question for managers, but let's look at it this way:

Once, many years ago, we had an employee who came into work wearing sunglasses, slurring her words, and acting generally very weird. A meeting with me ensued fairly shortly after her arrival to work and she explained she was on quite a bit of valium. Which was legally prescribed by her doctor.

Would you be cool with that? She is handling patients, doing treatments, restraining . . .

No? We weren't either.

The same holds true for marijuana. Just because it's legal doesn't mean an employee can come to work impaired. You should make sure to have a strong Drug Free Workplace policy that outlines this for you.

Now, the tricky part is how your clinic will handle recreational use outside of the workplace. This comes up with pre-employment drug testing and social media posts (bong pictures are totes the thing now).

So, let's start with recreational use. Courts in Washington and Colorado have continued to uphold an employer's right to require employees abstain from recreational drug use. This is because marijuana is still illegal on a federal level. So, the question: where do you and your clinic leadership stand on this issue? Whichever way, make sure it is clear in your drug policy. And keep an eye on the courts here. This is all new legislation.

Social media is the second tricky part when it comes to drugs. I already get a lot of calls from practice managers with questions about employees posting pictures of recreational marijuana use. What do you do now that it is legal?

First, as a reminder, social media is a public forum. Our first amendment gives us the right not to have our speech sanctioned by the government (not private entities). That being said, I don't friend/follow my employees nor do I spend my free time searching for them online. But people do sometimes send me screenshots of posts and it is my obligation as a manager to respond.

The question about recreational use goes back to how your clinic feels about it. If your policy is that you are cool with it, then you must also be cool with the social post. The caveat to this is if your employee is posting pictures of themselves getting high at work, in clinic scrubs, or otherwise representing your company unprofessionally. There was a similar situation where a flight attendant took a picture of herself wearing her uniform with the shirt open. The picture was taken before passengers boarded the plane. But the picture was in the workplace and she was wearing her work uniform. Therefore it was deemed unprofessional. Unprofessionalism can always be addressed.

So, we Oregonians have a lot to do in the next few weeks. We need to update our drug policies and communicate about it with our staff. For the rest of you, breathe easy for now. But get ready as I predict change is coming your way...