Columbus, Ohio — An Ohio chemical dependency counselor had a message about medical marijuana for manufacturing officials at the Environmental Health and Safety Summit: "We are definitely headed into uncharted territory."
In Ohio, you can't smoke medical marijuana, but you can vape. And Ruth Bowdish said employees could be vaping in your factory right now, using either medical pot or recreational weed, and you won't even know it.
"A lot of times when we think about marijuana, especially on the job, we also associate it with that very strong and skunky odor. And when I do reasonable suspicion training for employers, one of the things that I tell them to look for is that odor," Bowdish said. "Well, sorry, guys, the game has changed because now the electronic or liquid marijuana, you can get it in a variety of flavors."
The old days are over — both in today's pot with much higher THC and the way it's smoked.
"Instead, you really have to start to pay more attention to behavior on the job and some of the physical signs and symptoms of marijuana. Because just the odor of it, if you see someone with a joint, you kind of know that they're using. If you see someone with an electronic cigarette, how are you going know? That's the problem," she said.
Right now, Ohio law allows employers to ban all marijuana from the workplace, including medical, through company policy.
"Zero tolerance can really mean zero tolerance," said Bowdish, whose counseling practice is in Austintown, Ohio. She recommends giving workers who test positive for drugs one second chance, instead of immediate firing.
However, medical marijuana rules vary from state to state, she said.
"And because this is a hot-button issue, things are changing," Bowdish said.
The Environmental Health and Safety Summit, held July 17-18 in Columbus, was sponsored by the Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors, the American Mold Builders Association and the Association for Rubber Products Manufacturers, all based in Indianapolis.
The drug epidemic is hitting the workplace.
"Seventy-five percent of habitual drug abusers are on the job. They're not homeless, they're not underneath the bridge, they're coming to work every single day, and that's according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics," Bowdish said.