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Researchers concluded that smoking marijuana after hours had no negative effects at the workplace, and believe drug screening programs should adapt to this new reality.
Although some states have banned pre-employment drug testing regarding cannabis use, a recent survey shows about 50% of employers would still fire workers for a first-time positive test for cannabis. Stereotypes remain about how cannabis use affects job performance, though little to no research has looked into this belief.
Researchers at San Diego State University and Auburn University bucked that trend by conducting a study on how cannabis use affected employees on the job. They concluded that consuming weed after hours had no negative effects at the workplace, but did establish a negative correlation among those who used marijuana before or during work. While inconclusive, the study added that after-hours marijuana use could actually provide some workplace benefits.
“Individuals deciding to consume cannabis after finishing their work may be able to distract themselves from stressful on-the-job issues,” said Dr. Jeremy Bernerth, the study’s lead author. “The relaxation induced by cannabis may help employees restore energy spent during the day and they may subsequently return with more stamina to devote to their job once they are back on the clock.”
Bernerth and his team compiled data from 281 employees and their director supervisors regarding this intersection between cannabis use and job performance. Employees were asked when and how often they used cannabis in relation to their work. This could include how often an employee smoked marijuana before their shift over the past year.
Researchers then surveyed the employees’ supervisors about how well someone completed tasks at work, their willingness to support team goals, or if they exhibited any counterproductive work behavior. Supervisors more often reported counterproductive behavior and lack of team behavior by those who consumed before or during their shift. However, according to researchers, there was no “significant change in any of the work performance dimensions when employees used cannabis after work.”
Though drug screening programs continue across workplace environments, “there is virtually no empirical research exploring cannabis use in relation to the modern workplace,” they added.
Bernerth believes his team’s research should prohibit employers from banning all types of cannabis use by employees, because the study finds no adverse effect on job performance by after-hours users. NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano supported the position, noting that many workplace drug testing program were holdover policies by the Drug War era.
“Suspicionless marijuana testing never has been an evidence-based policy,” Armentano said. “Rather, these discriminatory practices are a holdover from the zeitgeist of the 1980s ‘war on drugs.’ But times have changed; attitudes have changed, and in many places, the marijuana laws have changed. It is time for workplace policies to adapt to this new reality.”
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