Safety Leader

The NSC on Cannabis in the Workplace

iStock/ Yarygin
iStock/ Yarygin

Working under the influence of illegal drugs and other substances is obviously grounds for termination. However, with cannabis medically or fully legal in 47 states, the National Safety Council (NSC) released a statement in October 2019 on cannabis in the workplace. 

According to the NSC, employees in safety-sensitive positions should never be allowed to be under the influence of cannabis at work. 

“The NSC calls on employers to restrict cannabis use for those in safety-sensitive positions—regardless of whether cannabis consumption is allowed by their state,” the NSC statement said. Safety-sensitive positions are “those that impact the safety of the employee and the safety of others as a result of performing that job.”

“Research clearly shows that cannabis impacts a person’s psychomotor skills and cognitive ability,” said Lorraine M. Martin, NSC president and CEO. “In order to protect our employees and those around them, we need to acknowledge the impairing effects of cannabis. We urge employers to implement policies stating no amount of cannabis consumption is acceptable for those who work in safety-sensitive positions.” 

NSC referred to studies showing that those under the influence of cannabis can experience impaired body movement, altered senses, difficulty with thinking and problem-solving, impaired memory, an altered sense of time, changes in mood and, when taken in high doses, hallucinations and delusions. 

Physical effects can include difficulty breathing and increased heart rate. 

“These effects can lead to deadly consequences for those working in safety-sensitive positions and those around them,” NSC stated. “NSC supports moving employees to nonsafety-sensitive operational positions when using cannabis for medical purposes.”

A 2019 NSC survey of employers found that 81% were concerned about cannabis having a negative impact on their workforce, and 71% indicated that their organizations’ written policies cover employee use of illicit cannabis. However, only 54% said their policies cover employee use of legal or prescribed cannabis.

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