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Navigating Marijuana and Your Workplace Policies

hemp plant on wood table and oil in glass jar

Navigating Marijuana and Your Workplace Policies

Depending on where you live in the country, you likely see marijuana products or the acronym CBD nearly everywhere. You may even have employees who are legally allowed to use medical marijuana to treat an illness.

As states continue legalizing marijuana and its various forms, our nation is seeing an increase in its popularity. Although there is research linking marijuana to increased work-related accidents, there isn’t enough to stop the legalization trend. With that fact in mind, you may be asked to review your company’s drug testing policy and make decisions on what your organization considers safe. It’s no longer an issue you can ignore.

To help you strengthen or reinforce your policies, we’ve put together some information about cannabis’ various forms and what we do know about drug testing, marijuana, and the workplace.


Between the alphabet soup of chemicals found in cannabis and the confusion between the difference between hemp and marijuana, here are the basics:

CBD or cannabidiol. A chemical with perceived health benefits but no “high.” Pure CBD will pass a urine drug test, but it’s difficult to extract this chemical without getting some THC, which is why there is a threshold for THC on drug tests. The market for these products isn’t well regulated.

CBN or cannabinol. A chemical that emits a mild “high.” It’s produced when decomposing THC is exposed to oxygen.

THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol. A chemical that produces a “high” feeling. The higher the THC, the stronger the “high.”

Hemp & Marijuana. Both plants are considered a type of Cannabis sativa, and often referred to interchangeably, but the different levels of CBD, CBN, and THC are what make their chemical structure different.

If you understand the topic and the differences between the plant’s chemicals and product types, you can create a clear and well-informed policy. You may want to consider how to address CBD products, the type of screenings your drug test vendor uses, the impact on your employees, whether/how your state protects marijuana users and your legal ground.

Navigating Your State’s Regulations & Strengthening Your Policies

A few months ago, we gave some legal tips about what you need to know about marijuana laws. The legal firm, Fisher Phillips, reinforced how important it is to know your state’s marijuana laws and to be careful when disciplining medical marijuana users. They went on to say you should keep monitoring cannabis laws, develop state-compliant workplace drug policies that are appropriate for your company, potential applicants, and employees, and apply your policies consistently.

Communicate with your employees when marijuana-related laws and policies change. Use your managers to reinforce the changes. If you need to accommodate an employee’s use of the drug, consider using a documentation process similar to the ones used for medicines that may cause impairment. When in doubt, seek legal counsel for clarification on your state’s laws versus the federal law.

This issue isn’t going away, and the laws and regulations will continue to change and evolve, but at the end of the day we’re all here to keep our employees safe.

Infographic sources: 1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2. Journal of the American Medical Association Network, 3. National Safety Council, Marijuana at Work: What Employers Need to Know

About The Author

Emily Hartman

Emily is a Marketing Manager here at KPA. She’s using the mad communications skills she learned in Washington, D.C., to break down technical information into news you can use.

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