The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) and the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN) have announced they will collaborate to study workplace health and safety issues associated with worker impairment from the use of marijuana and other drugs.
Citing changing societal attitudes toward marijuana, including its increasing use for medicinal purposes and new state-decriminalization laws, ACOEM and AAOHN leaders said the occupational health profession can play an important role in helping the U.S. workplace prepare for the potential impacts of these trends.
“Twenty states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to legalize medical marijuana and two states have approved its recreational use by adults,” said AAOHN President Pam Carter, RN. “With growing advocacy, other states seem ready to follow. Mainly because of such rapid change, both of our associations believe it is time to address workplace health and safety concerns when workers have impaired functioning from this and other drugs.”
A review of state medical marijuana laws shows laws generally specify that employers do not have to allow on-site marijuana use or employees working while impaired, and several specify that they do not protect conduct that would be considered negligent.
“Marijuana is being viewed as a relatively harmless substance, but this may be a misconception by those who may be unaware of workplace safety issues that can arise when workers are under the influence of marijuana or other drugs,” said ACOEM President Ron Loeppke, MD. “To compound the issue, there is a dearth of scientific studies to support the nature of current marijuana products and their effect on workers.”
ACOEM and AAOHN will form a collaborative task force over the next several months to examine current science related to marijuana use and determine evidence-based education and recommendations that can be offered to support occupational and environmental professionals who consult with employers regarding workplace health policies.