Risk Management and the Challenges With Drug Legalization and Employee Recreational Use

If you fly an airliner, there is a rule that can be summed up very quickly "eight hours between bottle and throttle," which means you cannot drink any alcohol whatsoever eight hours before you will fly a passenger jet. That's a good law if you are an airline passenger, and we know there have been cases where pilots have shown up drunk to fly the airplane, and they were dutifully booted off the plane and arrested forthwith. That's also a good thing from a risk management standpoint, not to mention from Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) safety procedures perspective.

Now then, if they legalize marijuana in California that opens up a whole can of worms with regards to risk management. If employees are allowed to use recreational drugs on their personal time, how many hours are they allowed to use those drugs prior to coming to work? If they stay up late the night before and party with friends smoking marijuana, and they get up for five hours later while there are still tired and semi-impaired - and come to work, can they do so safely?

Remember they still have the THC in their bloodstream, and it could cause them to have slower reaction times, and perhaps cause an accident at work. Formerly, I was in the car washing industry, and as you know it's a mechanized robotic system that cleans the cars. An employee that is around that equipment could easily get caught up in it and get injured or even killed in extreme cases, it happens all the time, I at least read about one case per month in the car wash industry trade journals.

Companies buy insurance to protect against risks, but the more claims they have the higher their insurance goes. And it doesn't necessarily have to be the company that has an accident, it could be another company in the same industry or several companies in that industry, and then all the insurance carriers raise the prices and premiums for the whole industry you see. The higher the cost for workers compensation and insurance means less profit for businesses, and that means the businesses may not be financially viable at some point and they will either have to lay off people, or close the businesses, and in that case everyone loses their job.

If you are a pot smoker you probably think I'm going overboard and blowing this out of proportion, but I assure you I am not, I've been in business 27 years, and we've dealt with employees that we had the fire to for substance abuse - still I understand the other side of the perspective, because I really do love freedom, and don't want to tell people what to do or how to live their lives.

Also realize if it is legal, it's no longer considered substance abuse, it's just a recreational drug which is now legalized. But that doesn't take away the danger, and as much as folks who smoke marijuana will tell you that it's not a dangerous drug, that's not entirely true, and these new "hybrid plants" which are being grown today have a lot more THC in them, they are much more potent than they were in the 60s.

And realize I've never smoked pot my life or done any illegal drugs (heck I won't even take an aspirin), but this is what I hear from the medical reports, and from folks who are involved in medical marijuana. This is a serious issue from a risk management standpoint, and on the business side of the issues. That's why the chambers of commerce are against the legalization of marijuana in California. We will see how the vote goes during the election, but it's going to be a problem for business, that I assure you. Please consider all this.

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