Over the last decade, marijuana use has increased in popularity, and subsequently, the legalization of marijuana has been an ongoing trend. States like Washington and Colorado took the lead as some of the first to legalize recreational marijuana use, causing a slow and steady domino effect. Other states followed in passing similar legislation, and as we all know, New York recently joined the race.
On April 1st, New York became the 15th state to legalize recreational marijuana.
We suspect most New Yorkers are quite the opposite of “mad” at marijuana legalization. Instead, most of the population seems to be happy with the new law, while the response from businesses is different— especially in the construction industry. For employers and staff members responsible for overseeing safety on a construction project, legalizing marijuana creates an ongoing area of concern and calls for increased measures.
Why is the construction industry so concerned about marijuana use being legal?
Because we understand that marijuana influences thought processes and can negatively impact the way a worker behaves while on site. According to the American Addiction Center, 15% of all construction workers have an addiction issue compared to 8.6% of the general population. While we know firsthand that not all construction workers are prone to substance abuse or addiction-like behaviors, it would be irresponsible of us as a whole to turn our heads at the potential for abuse. As it stands, there’s no handbook on steps an employee can take to address the concerns of a worker being high at work.
The concern is not marijuana use alone but how to react when a worker is under the influence of marijuana?
Because they are not breaking any law, technicalities limit the way an employer can penalize or respond to such a situation. As safety experts, we knew early on this new legislation would cause safety and liability concerns and anticipate further guidelines on how employers can somewhat control marijuana use amongst employees. But until then, we have a reliable source of information you can reference as a guide for handling workers you suspect of using marijuana in our Workplace Suspicion Course.