Weed at Work: 42% of Workers in Safety Sensitive Positions Say Coworkers Have Used Cannabis While on the Job

A survey from the National Safety Council gives a comprehensive view of marijuana use in the workplace and the safety concerns it poses.
By: | January 12, 2022

Cannabis legalization has long been on the rise in the U.S. 

By 2021, medical marijuana had been legalized in 36 states. Recreational usage is lawful in 19 states and another 26 have decriminalized the drug. 

But as legalization makes marijuana more widely available, are employers — especially those in industries where accidents are common — ready to regulate its use amongst the workforce? 

A detailed survey from the National Safety Council from July of 2021 dove into cannabis usage in the workplace and how employers can prepare to ensure that recreational and medical marijuana is handled safely. 

The survey targeted workers in the manufacturing, construction, transportation, utilities, agriculture, wholesale trade and mining sectors.   

By the Numbers

  • The report noted 34% of workers have observed their fellow employees using cannabis during work hours. Another 30% observed their coworkers using CBD products during work hours.
  • When it comes to safety sensitive positions, employees reported seeing a higher number of coworkers using cannabis — 42% compared to 21% for non-safety sensitive positions. 
  • Twenty-nine percent of employees have observed their coworkers sharing cannabis products with other employees while 24% reported seeing fellow workers share CBD products. 
  • Older employees are less likely to notice cannabis use amongst their coworkers than younger employees. The survey found that 20% of employees 55 or older had noticed cannabis use in the workplace compared to 36% of employees under 34 and 41% of workers 35-54.   

Which Industries Have the Most Cannabis Usage?

Construction and mining saw the most rates of cannabis usage amongst the industries surveyed. 

In construction, 45% of workers reported seeing other employees using cannabis and another 39% using CBD during work hours. Forty-one percent witnessed coworkers sharing cannabis. 

Half of workers surveyed in the mining sector reported seeing their coworkers sharing cannabis and 54% said they saw coworkers sharing the drug during work hours. 

The utilities sector had the lowest rates of employees witnessing cannabis usage, according to the survey. Only 22% said that they had seen coworkers sharing cannabis. 

Are Employers Prepared?

First off, employees using drugs, alcohol or other substances that may impair their ability to do their jobs safely should always be concerning to workers’ comp and safety professionals, especially since we don’t yet have reliable tools for assisting marijuana impairment

On the whole, only 62% of employers surveyed had a policy in place for cannabis use in the workplace. Instead, they tend to be more focused on regulating the use of other substances, such as alcohol and prescription drugs in the workplace. The survey noted that 78% of employers have a policy governing other types of substances in the workplace.   

To assess how prepared businesses are for these risks, the National Safety Council surveyed both employers and employees on how prepared their organizations are to address medical and recreational cannabis usage in the workplace. 

For the most part, employers said that they felt at least somewhat prepared to address medical and recreational marijuana usage in the workplace. Of those surveyed, 44% said they felt extremely well prepared to address recreational usage and 39% said they are somewhat well prepared.

On the medical side, 42% said they felt extremely well prepared to address cannabis usage and 45% said they were at least somewhat well prepared. 

Employees tended to be more confident in their employers with 65% of workers saying their organizations are well prepared to address medicinal cannabis usage. Sixty-nine percent of employees thought their employers were prepared to address recreational usage in the workplace. &

Courtney DuChene is a freelance journalist based in Philadelphia. She can be reached at [email protected]

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