The recent legalization of recreational marijuana in Michigan creates new challenges for Indiana employers who hire Michigan residents.

How Employers are Treating Recreational Marijuana

Cannabis growing in a field In a tight labor market, many employers are asking whether they can afford not to hire individuals who reside in Michigan and use marijuana off-duty. How do employers handle employees who reside in Michigan and test positive on the job for marijuana use? Unlike alcohol, marijuana can stay in the system 24-48 hours after casual use. It can remain even longer if the individual is a regular user. Even when state law permits marijuana use, business leaders can face liability issues.  An employer who is under the influence and causes an accident resulting in injury or death poses risks for any business.

Some employers are treating cannabis like alcohol. As long as it’s not being used on the job, it’s not necessarily cause for termination. Yet, even when state laws permit marijuana use, there can still be consequences. Business leaders may face liability for accidents, workers’ compensation claims, higher benefit costs, and other risks.

  1. An employee who is under the influence of marijuana while at work could injure others, including customers.
  2. An employer may be held responsible for damages stemming from an auto accident involving an employee who tests positive for marijuana.

Recently a client based in Indiana approached me about an employee who resided in Michigan and tested positive for marijuana use. Like my client, employers should work with their insurance agents and legal advisors about marijuana use. This will help them stay ahead of legislation and court decisions governing marijuana use and the potential impact on such risk management areas as worker’s comp, workplace safety, and employment practice liability.

Formulating Strong Drug and Alcohol Policies

forklift driver hauls boxes at workA well-thought-out drug and alcohol policy that is clearly communicated may be an employer’s best answer to rapidly changing marijuana laws. As companies develop or fine-tune their drug and alcohol policy, they should focus on workers’ performance and impairment. At a minimum, drug and alcohol policies should:

  • Prohibit the use, possession, sale, distribution or manufacture of drugs or drug paraphernalia at work
  • Forbid employees from reporting to work while under the influence
  • Ensure compliance with applicable state and federal laws

Employers still have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace, free of potential accidents or violence. As marijuana laws change across the country, it’s vital for employers to have a comprehensive, legally acceptable drug policy. Drug policies should address the decriminalization of marijuana use. Likewise, a commercial insurance review will ensure the business is adequately protected from liabilities associated with employees under the influence of marijuana.

This issue of recreational marijuana use in Michigan will obviously be a hot topic for Indiana and Michigan employers. Please contact one of Healy Group’s Insurance and Risk Management Advisors for a commercial insurance review to ensure your business is adequately protected.

Scott Johnson is the director of purpose and passion, and a mentor, leader, and head cheerleader for Healy Insurance division. In his professional life, Scott embraces the Healy Spirit, helping others and giving value first. He is also the author of Insurance Caffeine, an E-magazine featuring commercial and personal insurance related topics.