Aurora University Discusses Marijuana in the Workplace

110615_Aurora University Discusses Marijuana in the Workplace 

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Much has been said about the use of medical and recreational marijuana in general, but seldom are there discussions on the use of this substance in the workplace setting. Now, Aurora University’s Center for Adult and Graduate Studies in Chicago has taken the initiative to talk about marijuana in the workplace by conducting a workshop for managers, supervisors, and human resource professionals.

“People continue to have questions about medical marijuana and what they need to know about it, how to deal with it, and what happens if a person is tested for it and comes up positive,” said Ed Miranda, business development specialist for Aurora University. “This is something that has received a lot of press in Colorado and people are curious about what is applicable here.”

The one-hour presentation by Jim Griffin, an employment attorney for the Management Association in Downers Grove, attracted more than 40 guests, which was higher than expected for a holiday weekend.

The one-hour presentation touched on the history of marijuana, tracing it back to 1996, when California became the first state to legalize the drug. “Today there are 23 states that have legalized it for medical purposes, although the Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that states can’t usurp the federal law, so there is a lot of gray area,” said Griffin.

Griffin also explained the current law in Illinois, which operates under the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act. “Each state has different laws and provisions, and even though the act was passed over a year ago, marijuana still can’t be legally dispensed here because there are certain provisions in the act that haven’t been established yet,” he said. “They include where the marijuana is grown as well as dispensed, and those haven’t been set up as yet.”

One of the main issues of HR professionals is what happens if an employee tests positive for marijuana. According to Griffin, companies can still enforce a zero drug tolerance policy, but they also have to be mindful of the anti-discrimination policy in Illinois regarding the use of medical cannabis.

“At this point, we’re not sure how things are going to play out here as no one has yet challenged the anti-discrimination law,” he said. “This is a four-year pilot program which would have to be renewed.”

Participants deem the seminar to be helpful in the workplace. Beth Smith, an independent consultant hoping to secure an HR position, said that being aware of the issue is a must for HR professionals.

“It’s harder and harder for HR professionals to stay current but they have to be,” she said. “There is always this balancing act between protecting the employees as well as the workplace.”

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