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:
- A complaint is received, you suspect intoxication or an accident has occurred.
- Observe the employee and document the observations and assess everything.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.