Cannabis use in the workplace

Using cannabis is part of the daily life of a significant percentage of the population. In Catalonia, some 200,000 people consume it on a regular basis. The reasons for using cannabis are many and varied: to unwind, to forget, to get its therapeutic properties, to be inspired and so on. Consumption habits may sometimes mean that cannabis use and its effects become a staple part of someone’s life, i.e., they smoke almost all the time and in almost all social settings. And of course also at work. In addition to being an indicator of prolonged use over time, smoking at work can also bring with it a number of risks. Obviously, not all jobs are the same and not all usage is accompanied by the same hazards. Let’s have a look.

First of all, you need to know whether or not you’re allowed to use cannabis in your workplace. Working at a building firm where occupational health and safety regulations explicitly ban cannabis use is not comparable to working from home as a freelancer doing graphic design. In the former case, consuming cannabis is a breach of labour regulations, which can lead to the sack if you’re caught using it or show obvious signs of having done so. Dismissal in this case would be fair and any severance pay you get would be paltry. Admittedly, in many companies a group of stoners takes shape and there is a reciprocal feeling of mutual support and solidarity between them. However, while it is true that drugs bring people together, you should always bear in mind the risks you are running if you smoke at work. Aside from this issue, there is also the performance aspect. Managers may not realise or suspect you are under the influence of cannabis, but if your efficiency is poor you will quickly run into problems. Some people’s performance is not affected when they are under the influence of cannabis, but rather it helps them to concentrate. This means you need to really be aware of how cannabis affects you when you’re doing your job. Another matter for debate is the consequences of all-day use, but that is a different kettle of fish.

In the second case, obviously if you are your own boss and work on your own, simply using cannabis will not lead to problems such as getting fired. However, it may impact your performance and in particular result in seclusion. Working from home can prompt use. If you find you smoke more than you’d like to during the working day, you need to adopt usage habits which juggle performance with cannabis. Apart from cutting down, one option is to go for less psychoactive substances and even to smoke light cannabis, i.e., cannabis rich in CBD and low in THC. You’ll smoke but not get high. This will give you the taste of cannabis, so appreciated by most users, without getting a buzz that will render you unable to work for a while. Needless to say, it’s always better to vaporise than to smoke. Furthermore, employees in companies or associations where cannabis use is permitted are more exposed to risks. Just because you’re allowed to smoke at work doesn’t mean you have to. Ramping up use and smoking almost as a social obligation is the first step towards problems. If the environment is too overwhelming and forces you to smoke too much, you can opt for less psychoactive options or even consider changing jobs.

Using cannabis (and other drugs) in certain jobs can also have criminal consequences, i.e. you might be jailed. Yes, that’s right. Especially in jobs where you are responsible for the safety of other people: airline pilot, bus driver, train driver, taxi driver and others. And be careful: driving the general public around is not the same as transporting vulnerable passengers, as would be the case with a school bus. Someone under the influence of cannabis in these kinds of jobs is committing a criminal offence and the penalty is much more severe depending on a number of variables. When you are responsible for the safety of other people, it is not only illegal but also your personal duty to refrain from using. If you are unable to do this type of work without using, it might be a good idea to get in touch with specialist services. The professionals will be able to help you.

If you drive for a living, you really do have to be on your toes. The Road Traffic Law is especially severe on users of controlled drugs. While there is a threshold with alcohol beyond which you are considered unfit to drive with the resultant fine and loss of points, with other drugs there isn’t. The mere presence of metabolites of a substance automatically results in the loss of six licence points and a €1,000 fine. It is assumed that even a tiny amount of a substance impairs the driver’s psychomotor and cognitive abilities.

So if you’re found to have cannabis in your body on two occasions, the authorities will withdraw your licence, i.e. you will be banned from earning a living in the way you used to. And that would be a real nightmare. If you’re an employee, you’ll most probably be lawfully dismissed because you will be unfit for your job owing to an unreasonable cause. In the case of cannabis, the aggravation is extreme because it is fat-soluble and so in habitual users it lasts for about thirty days. This means the famous ‘Drogotest’ drug test detects it up to three days after your last intake.

And the final point to bear in mind in the relationship between cannabis use and work is the drug checks run by companies. An increasing number of businesses, especially large multinationals, are using drug testing, in some cases regularly and randomly and in others only when you join the firm. Whether this is lawful is disputed, except in jobs where the employee is responsible for the safety of other people, although businesses normally invoke their corporate policy and there’s nothing employees can do about it. Either you jump through the hoops or you’re shown the door. Firms using these types of controls seek to ensure they have a ‘drug-free work environment’. If you use drugs, sooner or later the company is likely to take disciplinary proceedings against you, which may lead to you getting fired.

To recap, if you work in a job where cannabis use is banned, you need to take extra care to make sure you don’t get into trouble. And whether it’s allowed or not, you have to control your use in the workplace because if you smoke on the job, you’ll smoke even more in your free time, and maybe that would be a bit too much, right?