Discrimination against cannabis use in the workplace

Published Jul 1, 2020 12:00 p.m. ET
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Most long time cannabis consumers have experienced some form of discrimination against them for their substance of choice, but now that pot is legal in so many different places, many argue that it’s time for companies to update their policies to reflect society's views today. What was once considered to be an employer's business is quickly becoming a hot topic, particularly in regions such as Canada, where laws have increasingly loosened, and drug testing is a rare occurrence.

How discrimination in the workplace occurs

Discrimination from friends and family can be devastating enough, especially if you rely on a product like cannabis oil to get you through each day, but once it places a barrier between a person and meaningful employment, there is a problem that needs a solution. In some cases, interested job seekers are turned down, and in others, they may be teased for their cannabis use through harsh jokes about things like work ethic and laziness.

In some cases, a boss may choose not to promote one employee over another who is equally qualified for a position, simply because they know that the person uses an alternative medicine, even if it’s only in their spare time. This can be a serious problem for individuals who need consistent treatment, which might mean taking a few hits from a joint in the smoking pit, which could ultimately reveal their shunned behavior, and it leaves thousands too afraid to admit to their drug of choice, for fear of repercussions.

It is also an issue for anyone who prefers the gentler, more natural effects of cannabis over more widely acceptable substances like alcohol or doctor-prescribed opioids because it steers them away from a safer choice and contributes to substance abuse issues that are growing bigger with every passing day. This group tends to include people like parents, grandparents, and those with medical conditions who cannot afford the cost of partaking in a man-made poison.

Is it really a problem?

This most definitely a problem, but it is important to fully understand what this means, as we aren’t suggesting that it is ever appropriate to show up to work so stoned that you can’t do your job safely. Those who struggle the most with this kind of discrimination, have no choice but to use cannabis while they’re on the clock because they have medical reasons for needing it. This means that they might have to use it periodically at work or smell like it when they come in for their shift, and that can cause serious issues with some employers.

Unfortunately, this discrimination has been going on for decades, as it was only recently that most patients finally gained access to legal medicinal products. However, none of this attitude is backed by any kind of real science. In fact, the majority of the distaste for stoners comes from long-ingrained stereotypes about people who smoke weed. This continues, even now that we know how most of the highly sensationalized cannabis enthusiast personalities in the media really aren’t based in reality at all.

Stoner stereotypes include a lack of work ethic

A lot of employers seem to assume that if they hire someone who enjoys the occasional toke, that they will lack any sense of work ethic, which is a pretty important quality in a new or rising employee. Of course, an employer wants someone who is productive, motivated, keep on important details, and reliable every step of the way, but most employers don’t realize that this description suits most cannabis consumers quite well.

In fact, there is plenty of scientific evidence to suggest that stoners might just be the best employees that you’ll ever find. Studies like this one which revealed how some strains help to motivate consumers to exercise and this one that proved that there is absolutely no difference between the motivation levels of stoners versus their counterparts who don’t use cannabis, with various different tasks used to test and disprove the theory.

When it’s appropriate to ban cannabis use in the workplace

Being told that you can’t come to work stoned isn’t necessarily discrimination unless you’re a registered or licensed patient who has a legitimate need to use cannabis products as a medicine, but even if you do, that doesn’t mean that you can be high on any sort of job. So, this fact in and of itself may disqualify you from a position, even if you have a prescription, and there really isn’t much that you can do about that, and for a good reason.

Many jobs today carry an element of risk that carries over from one day to the next. These kinds of jobs might require driving for deliveries, operating heavy machinery, or running a dangerous tool in a factory, and to get them, you will often have to agree and submit to drug testing to stay gainfully employed. In most cases, cannabis use could make you a liability, and this is a perfectly legal and appropriate reason to discriminate against pot, because it could bring harm to you or others who may be around you, and no one wants that.

How to avoid discrimination against cannabis in the workplace

If you are on the market for a new job or career, as a cannabis consumer, it’s a good idea to look at positions that will allow you the freedom to express yourself without worry about discrimination. Sure, you could always leap in headfirst and try your hand at a job within the cannabis industry, but if that’s not quite what you had in mind, then you may want to consider jobs that will let you work from home.

Many of these opportunities are achievable without ever having a single in-person interview, as long as you can prove that you have what it takes to get the job done. You could get into advertising, selling goods like Mary Kay's makeup, or take up a data entry position where the only thing that matters is how well you can type. Think of a skill that you have that is compatible with working from home and then branch out from there to find the perfect job for you.

Why moderation is key

No matter where it is that you work, it is important to know your limits and to stay within them. If you’re someone who can smoke all day and maintain a solid work ethic, then you may have nothing to fear, but the truth is, that overconsumption, particularly that of the wrong strains, can most definitely leave you feeling sleepy and unproductive, which won’t help you to be at your best. If you can handle making it through the workday without getting stoned, then that’s always the best choice possible, unless you know how to use cannabis as an aid rather than a hindrance to your everyday responsibilities, like work.

Witnessing the next evolution of stoner stereotypes

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