The 4 Fundamentals of an Effective Workplace Drug Policy

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To address the numerous changes that have taken place over the last several years regarding drug use in the United States, like new medical marijuana laws at the state level, many employers are taking a close look at their workplace drug policies.

Such a review can help ensure that your organization’s drug free workplace policy is not only meeting your ongoing needs (which could change over time), but also is responding to the evolving regulatory and cultural landscape regarding drug use in the U.S.

Any examination of your organization’s workplace drug policies should begin with some baseline considerations that will serve as foundational elements as you navigate the process:

  1. Establish whether your drug testing policy adequately addresses your organization’s goals, culture, values, safety concerns, security needs, and privacy issues.
    This essential question is perhaps the most important you must address. Every organization is different—a start-up Internet company probably has a particularly different risk profile, typical employee type, vision, and workforce composition than, say, a national hospital system.

    Asking yourself these critical questions can help determine if your workplace drug policy reflects who you are, where you are headed, and how you see yourself getting there.

  2. Create a list of the types of positions within your organization and assess how much each position type impacts the safety of your organization, your workers, your locations, your customers, and the society at large.
    Employers whose workers have a greater exposure to safety-sensitive situations—for example, construction companies—may have a much more aggressive approach to their workplace drug policies than other organizations.

    Better understanding the specific makeup of your workforce and the safety profile of each position can help guide you in fine-tuning your internal drug policy. More safety-sensitive positions may warrant a lower tolerance of drug use by employees.

  3. Clarify if your organization is subject to any federal regulations or if you derive revenue from the federal government and/or operate under a federal contract.
    Employers that meet any of these criteria may find it prudent to prioritize federal law over state law. In many instances, giving precedence to federal law may be outright mandated by the federal government as part of doing business with it.

    Organizations with no ties to the federal government may have more flexibility with their workplace drug policies, whereas employers with such relationships may be prohibited from accommodating marijuana users.

  4. Construct a detailed list of the states in which your organization operates.
    Because drug laws can vary dramatically from state to state, it is critical that all employers thoroughly understand their legal requirements, if any, regarding drug testing in each state in which they do business, hire employees, or have a location.

    Those organizations that do not operate in states with enacted medical or recreational marijuana laws may not feel compelled to address these statutes in their workplace drug policies, though their specific company cultures or objectives may merit such consideration.

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