Majority of Illegal Drug Users Employed

MANITOWOC — Annie Short believes most Wisconsin business owners probably haven’t given a lot of thought about employees showing up for work legally stoned.

“Before we legalize this, let’s really think through the complications of marijuana,” the program manager for Healthiest Manitowoc County, told this month’s Wellness Council Awareness Lunch audience. Her talk was titled, “Drug Abuse and the Cost to Businesses.”

“What is that safe level that you would want employees who use marijuana on the job site?” Short asked, knowing more than a dozen states have legalized so-called medical marijuana usage.

Beginning January 1 in Illinois, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act goes into effect allowing for the registration of cultivation centers and dispensing organizations with a tax of 7 percent of the sales price per ounce.

“Do we want our police officers, pilots, bus drivers under the influence of a medical marijuana card?” asked Short who co-chairs the local substance abuse prevention coalition, is a member of the State Council and Other Drug Abuse and is co-chairing its heroin task force.

Polices in writing

Short said she wants to help support companies in creating drug-free workplace programs. She urged the business people in the audience to have clear polices in writing that will make it harder for drug-abuse workers to dispute potential discipline and-or termination.

She recognizes the reality that how companies handle employees with known drug use may depend on what kind of investment they have in the person, how valuable the individual is. She did say, “Enforce the policy no matter who it is … or it just becomes a bunch of words on paper.”

“Do you have posters up talking about the risks of heroin? Are you talking to employees who received pain medication post-surgery and monitoring continuing use?” Short asked.

She believes inappropriate drug use “will be a continuing, growing problem.”

She has information she can loan to businesses for their own “lunch and learn” sessions, including, for example, helping train supervisors in recognizing drug usage.

Short said successful drug-free workplace programs include a written policy, employee education, supervisor training, an employee assistance program and drug testing.

When it comes to employee education, Short said everyone in the company needs to know the benefits of a drug-free workplace. Help everyone know the signs to look for drug use.

“If you promote and train on workplace safety, drug free can be a part of that movement,” Short said.