Manufacturing Today - July 2017 - 17

STEVE SAWIN | COLUMN BY

Government surveys suggest that 7.4
percent of workers in manufacturing have used illicit drugs in the past
month. Marijuana is included in that
workplace estimate.
However, these data do not answer
a fundamental question: Are any of
these workers high on the job? If so,
that's clearly a big problem. Marijuana can cause acute nausea, impaired
coordination and anxiety, none of
which are conducive to employee
safety or productivity.

What are the safety and
liability considerations?
Manufacturers should consider the
safety risks that could stem from
impairment at work. "The potential
harm of somebody whose job is clerical involving working on a computer,
sending e-mails and so forth, potential impairment is more intangible
than the immediate risk of someone
working on an assembly line or working with dangerous tools or producing
products that if manufactured incorrectly could harm people," says Brian
D. Carlson, J.D., a partner at Schwartz
Hannum PC.

If your operations are safety-sensitive, a restrictive policy is likely
prudent - which could mean that employees are subject to random drug
testing. And if you have a federal government contract, employee drug use
of any kind is not permissible.
Employees may not face criminal
penalties for marijuana use in states
like Colorado or Massachusetts - but
that doesn't mean employers must
turn a blind eye to drug use in these
states. Although employees may object to drug use policies, they don't
have a firm foundation for litigation.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and under the supremacy
clause of the Constitution, federal law
overrides conflicting state laws.
"Since marijuana remains illegal
under federal law, at least to the extent that there are federal statutes
involved, I think employers have a
pretty strong defense against employees claiming they have any right to use
marijuana," Carlson says.
Some states may even have special
rules aimed at limiting workplace

JULY 2017 manufacturing-today.com

17

E MPLOYEES

What is the state of drug
use in manufacturing?

Even regular marijuana use outside
work might, in theory, affect an employee's output. In a study, researchers at UCLA found that people who
had used marijuana within the past
four weeks scored lower than their
peers on tests of attention/working
memory, information processing
speed, and executive functioning.
For the occasional, casual marijuana user, the implications are less clear.

B UY AMERICAN

eight states, the drug is legal (or will
be soon) for recreational use.
However, possession of marijuana is
still illegal under federal law, and this
seems unlikely to change under the
Trump administration. In February,
Attorney General Jeff Sessions told
reporters: "My view is that we don't
need to be legalizing marijuana."
State legislatures have not ceased
their movement on this issue, however. Legislators in Delaware recently
introduced a bill to allow adults over
21 to purchase marijuana for medical
use. West Virginia's legislature is establishing a Medical Cannabis Commission. This week, the governors of
four states with legalized marijuana
sent a memo to Attorney General Jeff
Sessions asking the Justice Department to let them be.
Society pays a high price when individuals are arrested with small quantities of marijuana. In 2010, before state
laws legalized recreational marijuana,
the American Civil Liberties Union
estimated that states spent over $3.6
billion dollars enforcing marijuana
possession laws. In 2015, there were
more than 574,640 arrests nationwide
just for marijuana possession, FBI
data show.


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Manufacturing Today - July 2017

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