High Expectations for the Future Cannabis Workforce

Call it sociopathic
paranoia or the curse of the legal brain: I am enraptured by looking far into
the future and finding problems. There is one in particular that has perplexed
me since the beginning, and it’s perplexing because it’s unsolvable by legal
force. As far as cannabis goes, legalization, or, more accurately,
de-scheduling at the federal level will solve most of the practical problems
facing the budding cannabis industry (like banking) and those facing patients
and society in general (like the ability to carry firearms). Employment of
cannabis users, however, is not likely to ever be mandated. I don’t care how
legal cannabis, employers will not be forced to employ a person who uses
cannabis. And that’s a short-sighted shame.

The
problem is that at-will employers are not required to hire or retain anybody,
unless their adverse action is a result of unlawful discrimination, and it is
not, and will likely never be, unlawful to discriminate against a person who
consumes cannabis, medically or otherwise. Let’s remember, we are not talking
about people who use, possess or are under the influence of cannabis while
working. Employers can lawfully discriminate against—and fire—a person simply
because they are found to be using cannabis on their own time. Even
medicinally, even with a state registration.

Employers
in Colorado have not been persuaded by legalization there, continuing their
pursuit of employees terminated for extra-curricular use all the way to the
Colorado supreme court. Here in Michigan, a state now far removed from the once
powerful influence of unions, I don’t see a future any less bleak. Two years
after the Michigan appellate court affirmed the state unemployment agency’s
obligation to pay benefits to medical cannabis patients in the consolidated Braska decision,
our Attorney General continues to challenge the issue, still convinced that
patients do not deserve those benefits.

I wish
we could legally force employers to hire and retain cannabis users, but we
cannot. Our only real option is to persuade employers that cannabis users make
good employees, and so the question for employers will ultimately be whether
employees who use cannabis create more risk and cost more money, or not? My
guess is not.

I would
love to see some solid research studies on this, but anecdotally speaking, I
have seen many, many people come off of disability because of their therapeutic
cannabis use and function as productive, taxpaying workers because of it. These
are people that—unlike cigarette smokers and drinkers—are creating long-term
health instead of destroying it. This is good for business, good for industry,
good for insurance premiums and good for society because we are keeping people
off of disability, off of unemployment and, ultimately off of welfare.

Business
owners, insurance companies, HR managers, actuaries, temp firms, unemployment
agencies, and Republicans, listen up. If you can get over the word “marihuana”
which, for some reason, still carries an uninformed and meaningless bias, you
will avoid missing out on the opportunity of hiring from a talented, productive
and healthy work force. Or we could close every factory in America. Just
sayin’.

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