“Medical” Marijuana Use Has Same Effect as Recreational Use

Marijuana used for medical purposes has the same long term effect on the user as marijuana used for recreation. Marijuana use can cause impairment of short-term memory, attention, motor skills, reaction time, and the organization and integration of complex information. Marijuana use alters perceptions and creates time distortion and can cause drowsiness and lethargy. Heavy marijuana use can cause apathy, decreased motivation, and impair cognitive performance and can cause mental health problems. Employees who use marijuana off-duty are still effected by it. Impaired cognition that can cause lapses in judgement can remain for a long period. Memory defects can last as long as six weeks. See: Abbie Crites-Leoni, Medicinal Use of Marijuana: Is the Debate a Smoke Screen for Movement Toward Legalization? 19 J. Legal Med. 273, 280 (1998) (citing Schwartz, et al., Short- Term Memory Impairment in Cannabis-Dependent Adolescents, 143 Am. J. Dis. Child. 1214 (1989)

Employers may be liable for the actions of employee who use marijuana especially those employees in safety sensitive positions. The more chronic the use of “medical” marijuana the higher the risk.


Will employers have to accommodate marijuana use that violates federal law? Marijuana, remains illegal under federal law because of its “high potential for abuse,” its lack of any “currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” and its “lack of accepted safety for use … under medical supervision.”Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005); United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative, 532 U.S. 483 (2001)


As consumers we all pay for lost productivity and job-related accidents in the final costs of the produced goods and higher insurance premiums due to workplace accidents. Drug using employees are not as safe. They are 3.6 times more likely to be involved in a work-related accident than their non-using employee, and 5 times more likely to file workers’ compensation claims. As many as 50% of all workers’ compensation claims may involve substance abuse.[ EN1]

The U.S. Postal Service did a study that showed that substance abusers have 55% more accidents, experience 85% more on-the-job injuries, and have a 78% higher rate of absenteeism when compared to non-substance abusing employees.[ EN2] A report by the National Safety Council claimed that 80% of those injured in serious drug-related work accidents are not the drug using employees, but innocent employees and others.[ EN3]

Drug using employees commit workplace crimes. There is a very significant statistical correlation between drug use and criminal conduct.[ EN4]

Substance abuse also causes:

Domestic and financial difficulties for employees;

Poor judgment in employment decision making;

Potential embarrassment to the employer as a result of off-duty conduct, which may be publicized, including criminal charges, diversion of supervisory and managerial time;

Damage to company property; and

Time devoted to discipline and grievance matters.[EN5]

While the studies vary somewhat, it is clear that there is substantial substance abuse in the workplace and it has a powerful negative impact on our economy and productivity. The increased use of “medical” marijuana will magnify all these problems.


[EN1] Current, The Truth About Drug Testing: Answers to the Questions Everyone Is Asking, p. 3 (1st Ed., Fort Lauderdale, FL, 1998).

[EN2] “Pre-employment Drug Testing: Association with EAP, Disciplinary, and Medical Claims Information” U.S. Postal Service, Personnel Research and Development Branch, Office of Selection and Evaluation, July 1992.

[EN3] Wisotsky, The Ideology of Drug Testing [Ideology of Drug Testing], 11 Nova L Rev 763, 768 (1987).

[EN4] See Stewart, Proof Positive of Drug Link to Crime, Wall St J, May 28, 1987, at 26, col 3.

[EN5]Alcohol & Drugs in the Workplace: Costs, Control and Controversies, A BNA Special Report [Costs, Control and Controversies], 7 (Bureau of National Affairs, Washington, D.C. 1986)

Source: Attorney David Evans in email to Drug Free America Foundation June 2010

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