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National Safety Council warns employers about sensitive jobs as Illinois prepares for legal cannabis

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The National Safety Council is telling employers that some jobs have too much of an impact on safety to allow for any marijuana use by employees.

As Illinois prepares for recreational adult-use cannabis starting Jan. 1, the National Safety Council said there was no acceptable amount of marijuana use for employee in a safety sensitive position.

National Safety Council Vice President of Government Affairs Jane Terry said the organization wants employers to prioritize safety. Terry said that with existing technology, it isn’t possible to test for marijuana impairment. That’s why the National Safety Council is asking employers with employees in safety-sensitive positions to have a zero-tolerance policy.    

The safety council defines safety sensitive positions as those that impact the safety of the employee and the safety of others as a result of performing that job. Some of these positions would include jobs such as drivers, childcare, police, or anyone who handles dangerous chemicals.

Lorraine Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, pointed out that research shows cannabis impacts a user’s psychomotor skills and cognitive ability.

“In order to protect our employees and those around them, we need to acknowledge the impairing effects of cannabis,” Martin said. “We urge employers to implement policies stating no amount of cannabis consumption is acceptable for those who work in safety sensitive positions.”

With legalization of marijuana on the horizon in Illinois, Terry said that for federal employees that cannabis remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I drug. She said jobs that follow federal regulations, such as trucking, won’t see any change with the new laws – marijuana use will still be banned.

The National Safety Council conducted a survey of more than 500 people in workplaces throughout the country asking them about drug use and their opinions and thoughts on it from their workplace perspective. The survey found:

  • 81% were concerned about the drug having a negative impact on their workforce
  • 71% indicated their organization’s written policies cover employee use of illicit cannabis, while only 54% said their policies cover employee use of legal or prescribed cannabis
  • 24% indicated they would dismiss an employee found to be misusing legal cannabis, such as being under the influence while on the job, while only 7% said they would relocate the employee to a position of lesser responsibility

The National Safety Council called for additional cannabis research to discover a way to detect cannabis impairment and gain a better understanding of the effects the drug has on the human mind and body.