Last month, the Centers for Disease Control, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, issued a bulletin directed to employers with workers who drive as part of their jobs. The bulletin, “Marijuana Driving: How to Keep Your Fleet’s Drivers Safe,” recognizes that marijuana use is on the rise due to the explosion of medical and recreational marijuana laws passed in most states. Because “marijuana is the most frequently reported drug found in post-crash testing,” the CDC explained that employers should address the issue as part of their “workplace motor vehicle safety programs.”

The CDC began with a discussion of the impact that THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) has on users. THC is the psychoactive compound that affects parts of the brain that control movements, balance, coordination, memory, and judgment. Specifically, it can “impair coordination, distort perception, and lead to memory loss and difficulty in problem-solving.” With respect to the impact that THC has on individuals when they drive, “THC can slow reaction times and reduce the ability to make decisions.” In fact, according to the CDC, the risk of a motor vehicle crash increases after the driver uses marijuana. That said, however, the CDC recognizes that because THC can be detected in the body days or weeks after use, the actual impact the drug might have on the accident is not certain.

What does the CDC recommend for employers with workers who drive as part of their duties?

  • Develop a comprehensive marijuana policy that accounts for current laws in each state where the employer operates, which prohibits employees from using or being under the influence of marijuana (or any illegal drug) while working.
  • Consult with counsel experienced with state marijuana laws in developing a new or revising an existing drug policy.
  • Outline the specifics of any required drug testing if mandated by the policy, including the conditions under which testing will occur (e.g., random, reasonable suspicion, post-accident, etc.), the threshold that will constitute impairment, and the consequences of a positive test result.
  • Engage a Medical Review Officer to review and interpret THC drug tests.
  • Warn drivers that cannabidiol (CBD) products are not regulated, which means that products labeled “THC-free” or “pure CBD” still might have THC in them, and that consumption of CBD products with high THC levels could result in a positive drug test.
  • Provide resources to employees with drug problems.
  • Educate drivers on the effects of marijuana and other drugs on safe driving and cognitive abilities and the details of the employer’s drug policy.
  • Train managers and supervisors on policy requirements and best practices for recognizing and documenting signs of possible drug impairment.

States continue to enact recreational and medical marijuana laws at an increasing pace. Moreover, as noted by the CDC, marijuana use is on the rise across the country. These two considerations have caused employers to place greater emphasis on their drug testing policies, especially for safety-sensitive and other driving roles. Employers in all jurisdictions, especially in those with drug testing laws on the books, would be well-advised to consider a fresh look at their drug and alcohol testing policies to ensure not only compliance with the applicable statutes but also that their policies fit the company’s overall views and goals about applicant and employee marijuana use.