More stuff on drugs and the workplace
Despite the best efforts of the government, and most employers, the issue of drugs in the workplace remains a challenging topic. From the large expenses of traditional control methods to the cost of dealing with changing legal challenges that impact employment law, your human resources office may be confronting these issues in the near future.
The War on Drugs
You’ve got your basic War on Drugs. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the U.S. federal government spent about $600 per second , or $19 billion dollars on the War on Drugs in 2003.
You’ve got the widely accepted perspective of most employers that testing for drugs is a positive thing. Consider this example excerpted from the Employment Drug Testing website:
Most employers find that a drug-testing program will eliminate people with problem, and not good applicants. Drug tests for small to medium employers generally cost in the $50-$70.00 range, including collection of the sample, laboratory analysis, services of a Medial Review Officer, and communications of the results in the manner most convenient to the employer. Compared to the cost of even one employee with a substance abuse problem, most firms find eliminating the problem in the first place is well worth the time and money involved in a drug-testing program.
This policy position is widely supported by numerous government initiatives, including DOD contracting requirements, and worker compensations. It is largely impossible to determine if there has been any ROI on these investments over the decades they have been in place, yet they remain a major part of employment policy in the United States.
Fighting against the War on Drugs
Resistance to existing drug law and employment policies seems to be on the rise. Many states have passed laws legalizing marijuana for use by medical patients who obtain the appropriate prescription. Despite the law, employer policies have not yet changed. Consider this video, discussing the case of a Walmart employee who is suing Walmart for terminating him under company policy for failing a drug test under company policy, despite his compliant legal status under Michigan law. Expect many more of these cases.
Employers and Legal Highs
Another challenge to the government and employers is how they will deal with what seems to be a constantly evolving menu of new, so-called legal drugs, including methods such as iDosing and the use of so-called legal marijuana.
Wired magazine recently reported on the issue of iDosing by high school students in Oklahoma:
I-dosing involves donning headphones and listening to “music” — largely a droning noise — which the sites peddling the sounds promise will get you high. Teens are listening to such tracks as “Gates of Hades,” which is available on YouTube gratis (yes, the first one is always free).
Those who want to get addicted to the “drugs” can purchase tracks that will purportedly bring about the same effects of marijuana, cocaine, opium and peyote. While street drugs rarely come with instruction manuals, potential digital drug users are advised to buy a 40-page guide so that they learn how to properly get high on MP3s.
A blend of herbs laced with synthetic marijuana known popularly as K2 is being sold openly in head shops and online, often sending people who smoke it to hospitals with symptoms ranging from soaring heart rates to paranoia to near-death experiences, according to health professionals.
From the ABC News site:
K2 is an herbal mixture product that offers the same high as marijuana.
“Whatever is being done is not being done fast enough,” Brendan Bickley, the clinical director of an addiction treatment center in Southern California, said. “It’s the perfect drug. It’s legal. It’s undetectable. It’s odorless. It’s cheap.”
Unions supports legalization of marijuana
Closing on a labor relations note, the Western District Council of the UFCW announced their support of a California state initiative that would legalize marijuana in the state.
The 200,000-member United Food and Commercial Workers, Western States Council, on Wednesday announced its support for Proposition 19, the initiative to legalize marijuana in California.
Ron Lind, international president of the union, and Dan Rush of its Local 5 also spoke out in favor of Proposition 19.
“The marriage of the cannabis-hemp industry and UFCW is a natural one,” said Rush. “We are an agriculture, food-processing and retail union, as is this industry.”