How to Implement Your Medical Marijuana Policy Without a Full Time HR Team

In this recap of a recent COSE WebEd Series Webinar, our expert explains the necessary policies and procedures involved in an effective workplace drug policy.


Last month, COSE hosted a free webinar outlining the five simple steps to implementing your medical marijuana drug policy. Presented by Cheryl Perez, Founder and President of BIGHR, information covered in the webinar included the specifics and details of exactly what you need to do in order to make sure that you have the proper policies and procedures in place as we embark upon a new age in drug workplace policies. Participants left with the practical knowledge of how to implement what they need to keep their business running the way they want it to, even in the absence of an HR team.

To start off, Cheryl identified the five steps for implementing medical marijuana policies in your workplace.

Step 1: Just because it’s legal it doesn’t mean you don’t have a choice. Ohio law does not require employers to embrace the medical marijuana law at your workplace. You have the choice to either be a drug-free workplace with accommodations for medical marijuana, or to take a zero-tolerance drug policy. However, if you have federal contractors or have safety-sensitive positions, among other things, you must take a zero-tolerance policy.

You have the ability as an employer to decide how far you’re going to enforce your drug policy. State of Ohio law does not trump you and your own internal law. This approach is designed to make sure you still have ability to decide what happens at your business.

Step 2: Your policy does matter. With dispensaries opening, this is a good time for you to go through your drug policies. What you stand for and what you decide to do needs to be explicitly spelled out in your policy. It is important that you have a component that talks about prescription drug use including medical marijuana. You should also consider encompassing other drugs that could impair your workers on the job.

What does this look like? You can be a drug free workplace but will make accommodations for those who have prescriptions or are in certain positions. However, even if your company does allow for accommodations, there are some reasons why you might need to explicitly forbid it in some cases. If you have positions where people are driving or operating heavy machinery, for instance, you will want to explain that these positions are zero-tolerance. Desk positions and others that are not safety-sensitive might be fine for allowing for accommodations. Make sure this is all spelled out in your documents and that your policy is up to date with appropriate language for prescription drugs.

Step 3. You need to have the procedures in place to go along with policies. When a situation arises where you have to address a violation of policy, you need to have the process and procedure to turn to. If results are positive and it’s that person’s first offense, maybe you’ll give a warning then termination. If you’re zero tolerance and there’s positive results from testing then you’ll probably be moving forward with termination from the beginning instead of a warning.

How do you get started? Here are some guidelines:

  • Make sure you have a solid relationship with a good drug testing facility. You can set up an account online with many of these places. If have a suspicion of drug activity or there’s been an on-the-job accident that occurs, you want to make sure you can send the employee right away for a drug test instead of scurrying to figure out what to do.
  • You must involve managers and supervisors on these procedures as well so that everyone is on the same page. Concerns about an employee being under the influence can come from coworkers, clients and others before you as the manager even notices. It’s imperative that you do not rely on hearsay or gossip, so you need a concrete complaint procedure.
  • Decide in advance how you will go about starting an investigative process. Make sure you as the employer can determine if the behavior is new or has happened in the past, and train other managers or supervisors to do the same.
  • Isolate the employee and observe his or her behavior. This is sensitive information so be sure to remove the employee from public areas. If you see any of the signs then you need to send them off for drug testing.
  • Have arrangements in place for transportation to the drug testing facility. You do not want to be liable for anything that could happen to them or someone else while they are on their way.

Step 4. Take action in the event of an accusation. First-hand observation should be made by two members of your management team; it’s beneficial for you to have two different witnesses immediately upon notice of the concern. The first thing you should do is go to that employee’s office, desk or other area and look through the trash can. Observe from afar as well and document in writing everything you observe.

A good procedure will proceed as follows:

  1. A complaint is received, you suspect intoxication or an accident has occurred.
  2. Observe the employee and document the observations and assess everything.
  3. Meet with the employee and if you have several signs checked off, proceed to implement sending him or her to drug testing. Make sure you know how far away the testing site is so you know how long it should take for the employee to arrive.
  4. Suspend the employee (with or without pay) while you wait for the drug testing results. It’s good when you have an online account with the testing facility because then you can receive and view everything online.
  5. Implement the discipline or termination procedure included in what your policy says it’s going to do.

Step 5: Clear communication with your employees and leadership team is crucial. Transparency and consistency are two very important characteristics of an effective plan. You have to actually review with your employees what this policy looks like and how it is documented in your employee handbook. You should also conduct a separate training for your leadership team members so they know what steps are and what is expected from them. The worst thing you could do is be in a reactive position when faced with this type of situation—all of your employees should know upfront what the expectations are, the details of all policies, and the procedures that will be followed. These policies and procedures should be followed in every instance of suspected drug use within your company; no employee should ever be treated differently—consistency is key.

For more details, including the necessary forms for implementing a drug and alcohol policy and help crafting policies and procedures, listen to the full presentation.

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  • Next up: How to Keep Everyone on the Same Page When Your Business Is Growing
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  • How to Keep Everyone on the Same Page When Your Business Is Growing

    Growing the size of your business can bring about some unintended negative consequences, including making it more difficult for your staff to act as one cohesive unit.

    Your business is growing, which means you’re busy building your team, training new people and forming more defined departments in your business. You’re keeping your company culture in mind. You’re finding the right people who bring a diverse array of experience to your business.

    But growth can be painful. It’s human nature for some personalities to conflict with other personalities. Also, communication can become more strained when you have a larger team. Each new hire brings their own experience and methods with them and folks who have been part of the team longer might feel they have leadership roles that have not actually been assigned. So, how do you bring everyone together?

    Dedicated training

    Before long, you will want to dedicate some training to the topic of communication. Getting everybody on the same page with expectations and standardizing the message to clients or the methods within the organization will result in happier clients and smoother internal operations.

    The training should cover listening skills and approaches to avoid making assumptions. Teaching the importance of actively listening to what co-workers are saying and asking for clarification in a productive manner will prevent time-killing misunderstandings.

    Everyone should be using the same methods to share information and should be instructed on the importance of including the whole team on developments. Using some form of client relationship management software or record keeping system can go a long way towards helping with that.

    Let’s not forget that privacy comes into play with your coworkers’ personal information and with clients’ protected information. Your policies related to protected information must be included in this training.

    Drew Mosley is the senior account manager at BIG-HR, which focuses on HR consulting and outsourcing. You can learn more about the company by clicking here.

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  • Next up: How to Make a Graceful Exit from Your Business
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  • How to Make a Graceful Exit from Your Business

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  • Next up: How to Make a Graceful Exit from Your Business
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  • How to Make a Graceful Exit from Your Business

    Devising an exit strategy for the business you worked sat so hard to build from the ground up is not easy. Here are a few resources that will get you started on the best way for you to make a graceful exit from your business.

    Devising an exit strategy for the business you worked sat so hard to build from the ground up is not easy. Here are a few resources that will get you started on the best way for you to make a graceful exit from your business.

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  • Next up: How to Make the Perfect Job Ad
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  • How to Make the Perfect Job Ad

    Get the most bang for your buck from your next job ad by following these expert tips from CareerBoard President Richard Padgett.

    Hiring and attracting talent can be a big hurdle for small businesses to overcome. And having to compete with bigger companies—that have potentially bigger resources from which to draw—does not make the task any easier.

    But it is possible for small business owners to attract the talent they need to be successful and to help their businesses grow. During a recent COSE WebEd Webinar, CareerBoard President Richard Padgett laid out exactly how a small business owner should go about crafting their job posting. 

    Let’s take a step-by-step look at how to make a job ad that will stand out and bring in the qualified candidates you need.

    The headline

    The headline you choose for your job ad is the most important part of the process, Padgett said. That’s because this is the first thing the job-seeker is going to see and it will be what the job distribution sites (such as Indeed, CareerBoard, and others) will use to deliver your job out to the masses.

    So, what should you keep in mind when you’re trying to write the perfect headline? First, keep things concise. If it’s too long, it might eliminate the ad from being distributed by the various job ad aggregators out there. A good rule of thumb is to keep the headline to 100 characters or less.

    Second, make sure you write the headline to reflect what people are actually looking for. If you have space, include a secondary title. For instance, the job ad headline might read: “Business Development Manager / Inside Sales.” Being specific with the secondary title will attract people who are looking for that exact type of work. And speaking of being specific …

    The job description

    Specificity also applies to the meat of your job ad, the description. Padgett outlined the following tips to help ensure you write a description that clearly explains what it is you’re looking for:

    • Include the job title again at the beginning of your ad, preferably in the first line. Job sites tend to weight the first two lines of your ad the heaviest, so you’ll want to get those keywords in there.
    • Write plainly and cleanly. Avoid jargon. Don’t try to outsmart the candidate.
    • List exactly where this job is located. Don’t say you’re in Cleveland when what you really mean is that your office is in Rocky River.
    • Don’t back away from describing the challenges that someone in this position might face. While that might not seem like the wisest strategy, Padgett said it will pique the interest of overachievers while eliminating those who aren’t that enthused about the position.
    • Include a little bit about your company’s culture. What’s the day-to-day like in your office?
    • Put the salary range in there. Padgett said studies have shown that ads that list salary details receive 70% more applications.
    • Be transparent about the hiring process and what the next steps are in the process.

    Missed out on this webinar? Never fear! View a replay of this webinar, as well as the others in the COSE WebEd series.

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  • Next up: How to Make Your One-on-One Meetings More Effective
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  • How to Make Your One-on-One Meetings More Effective

    Put those dreaded one-on-one meetings in the past. Follow these simple steps for effective and pleasant exchanges between management and staff.

    Management-staff one-on-one meetings should be a regular component of any organization’s performance management system. They allow for maintaining professional relationships and providing constructive ‘Plus/Delta’ feedback.

    ‘Pluses’ are an employee’s specific tasks, accomplishments or behaviors that are working and adding value that should be continued or even expanded. ‘Deltas’ are not negatives but specific changes in activity or methods that will improve results. Usually the change is doing less of something that isn’t working or stopping it completely, or doing more of something that would work better.

    • RELATED: Learn to be a power listener.

    The do’s
    These meeting should be short, concise, frequent and constructive and fall into three categories:

    One-on-One Type No. 1: Comprehensive. These meetings should focus on reviewing performance over the last week or month.

    One-on-One Type No. 2: Project Specific. These meetings should focus on dealing with the ‘Pluses’ and ‘Deltas’ of a specific project or process.

    One-on-One Type No. 3: Issue Specific. These meetings should focus on a specific problem that needs to be resolved immediately.

    Management-staff one-on-one meetings should have a detailed agenda distributed prior to the meeting and be followed up with a concise summary of points discussed, actions items and next steps. This strategy should be organization-wide at all levels and managers should be evaluated for the quality of the meetings they run with their subordinates. 

    • RELATED: Read more by Phil Stella.

    And the don’ts
    In order for these one-on-ones to reach maximum success, managers should avoid the following five ineffective behaviors.

    Ineffective Behavior No. 1: Talking way too much and not listening enough to employees.

    Ineffective Behavior No. 2: Telling too much and not asking enough questions or listening to responses.

    Ineffective Behavior No. 3: Assuming they know more about the problem than the employee closest too it. So, they come up with the solution because they’re the boss.

    Ineffective Behavior No. 4: Not having meetings often enough so they resort to rambling one-way data-dumps on a long list of topics instead of a focused conversation on a specific time period, project or problem.

    Ineffective Behavior No. 5: Criticizing ideas from staff during initial brainstorming conversations rather than generating lots of ideas in a non-judgmental process.

    The negative effects of such lame one-on-ones include failing to accomplish the initial objectives, wasting time and demotivating employees.

    Meet Joe and Maria
    Here is an example of when Joe the supervisor met with Maria the production analyst about problems with a new manufacturing process. He should have led a dynamic and creative dialogue to explore possible causes, analyzed each different solution and selected the best one. But instead, he shared his thoughts first, barely listened to Maria’s comments, told her how to solve the problem and then blamed her when it didn’t work. Maria got angry, quit and took a different job where her new boss wasn’t such an idiot. Score: Joe - zero, Maria - won.
    So, if you manage people, embrace the value of effective one-on-one conversations with each person. Strive for effective, efficient and engaging dialogues and avoid being anything like Joe.

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication (, 440 449-0356) and empowers business leaders to communicate confidently. Stella is a COSE Ambassador, Resource Network Expert, Content Committee member and has been a frequent speaker at COSE events. A popular trainer and executive coach on workplace communications and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative.  

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