Risk Matters

May 15, 2018

Spring Risk Forum Recap – Cannabiz: The Effects of Marijuana on Your Business

Employers today are facing an unusual challenge: Although medical cannabis is now legal in 29 states, including Pennsylvania, it remains illegal under federal law.

How does that impact your company’s Drug-Free Workplace policies, or your standard drug testing to ensure safety? Could employers now face allegations of discrimination if an employee is terminated, or not hired, due to medical marijuana usage? What does it mean for employee benefits packages.

Navigating the disparate state and federal laws, and understanding how medical marijuana might impact your business operations, is a complex process. That’s why we gathered a panel of experts to address this emerging issue for Graham Company’s Spring Risk Forum on April 20, Cannabiz: The Effects of Marijuana on Your Business.

Our speakers provided valuable insight on:

  • The future of the medical cannabis industry
  • Congressional bills to watch
  • What you can expect to see in employee use of medical marijuana
  • Drug-testing policies
  • Safety implications
  • Workers’ Compensation coverage
  • Why health insurers don’t cover medical marijuana – even if prescribed by a physician
  • Liabilities of medical marijuana in the workplace
  • Preventing and managing cannabis-related claims
  • How medical marijuana use could impact employers’ disability, accommodation and discrimination policies

For decades, human resources departments have been able to implement clear-cut policies on the presence or use of marijuana, as well as lingering impairment. Now that medical marijuana is legal in many states, it’s worth reviewing policies to specifically consider the impact of medical cannabis use.

First and foremost, employers should continue to emphasize job safety. A clear Drug-Free Workplace policy is important, as cannabis remains federally classified as an illegal drug. To avoid allegations of discrimination if an employee’s work suffers due to medical cannabis use, job descriptions should specifically note if the position is safety-sensitive or requires good judgement.

Marijuana-related impairment can be nuanced and difficult to judge. Unlike alcohol tests, there is no way to determine how much marijuana is in someone’s system. We can just detect its presence. Because of this, there is no baseline level of impairment that employers can test against to confirm an employee’s impairment. It will be up to a manager’s judgement.

As it relates to company-sponsored insurance policies and wellness plans, businesses should be prepared to answer questions from employees about coverage of medical marijuana. Because it is currently a Schedule 1 drug, it is defined as having no medical benefit and therefore is not considered medicine and is not covered by a health group plan. They should also be aware of the side effects associated with marijuana use. These may include altered perceptions and mood, lack of coordination, and impaired problem solving, memory, and learning skills. For chronic users, these factors contribute to an increased risk of injury or death due to a vehicle accident – with is important to consider if your business involves commercial driving.

The pitfalls facing employers are numerous and nuanced –and that’s why we devoted a half day to discussing these challenges from the perspectives of legal, management, health, safety and insurance professionals. We’re grateful to all of you who joined us at Yard’s Brewery for the conversation, as well as our incredible speakers:

  • Carl Bloomfield, AAI – Managing Director, Graham Company
  • Jennifer Corry, Esquire, CPCU – Account Manager, Graham Company
  • Rafael Haciski, Esquire – Producer, Graham Company
  • Amber Joseph, CSP, ARM – Risk Control Services/Technical Consultant II, Liberty Mutual Insurance
  • Adam Karalius – Assistant Vice President – Underwriting, Graham Company
  • Tracey Kilcullen – Vice President – Claims Services, Graham Company
  • Rita Lebo – Director of the Drug & Alcohol Program, WorkNet
  • Ronda O’Donnell, Esquire – Chair – Employment Law Practice Group, Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin
  • Joyce WalkerJones, Esquire – Senior Attorney Advisor, Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Graham Company’s Health & Human Services team will continue to host Risk Forums on the hot-button issues affecting the industry today. We hope you can join us in the future!

photo of Bette McNee
Bette McNee, RN, NHA
Clinical Risk Management Consultant
The Graham Building
Philadelphia, PA, 19102


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