Mike Butts
Tom Gennara Mike Butts

The genie is out of the bottle, and it’s not going back. Marijuana is the particular genie in this instance. No, I don’t smoke, nor do I advocate drug use of any sort. However, with 29 states now allowing medical use of marijuana, and eight states and Washington, D.C., allowing recreational use of pot, this issue is not going away. According to Business Insider, one in five Americans now live in a state where it’s legal to smoke weed without a doctor’s letter, and the industry is on track to post $20.2 billion in sales by 2021. (What are you doing with that extra ground behind barn #3?)

Just what is the issue? Zero-tolerance drug policies implemented by almost every LBM operation in the country. This may or may not have reared its ugly head in your operation, but I’ll bet that if you ask at your next dealer meeting, several of your fellow owners/managers have faced it. I’ve led discussions at a couple of roundtables and dealer meetings myself where this was hotly debated.

Here’s one scenario; you tell me if it could happen—or has happened. Your company participates in random drug testing for all employees. George, your yard foreman, who has been with you for years, gets a notice. He tests positive for marijuana use. After you get over the initial shock, what’s next? You call George into your office and tell him you have to let him go because of drug use. Then he shows you his medical marijuana card. Now you’re up against the fence. Your company has a zero-tolerance policy, but this is a permitted medication.

What are your options?

While pot may have medical benefits, it is still classified on a federal level as a Schedule 1 narcotic, and the federal government is not budging on that. In fact, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a vocal opponent of legalizing pot.

Also, as outlined on the Department of Transportation (DOT) website, DOT will not change its drug testing program or its guidelines based on state or federal changes. So, while it may be legal to smoke pot recreationally or medically in your state/locale, if the employee in question has a commercial driver’s license (CDL), regulated by DOT, the two are in conflict. If a driver tests positive for marijuana, that is grounds to lose a CDL. If the job description states that this employee must have a CDL to perform his/her job, the loss of such license could be grounds for termination.

While DOT has your driver boxed in, if this were any other employee—customer service, sales, office admin—what would your response be? And is it fair that Loudmouth Larry, a mediocre salesman at best, can smoke all he wants, while your truck driver can’t because of special circumstances?

If you haven’t addressed this situation yet, you need to get your professional team together and devise a policy. Widespread use of this substance is only going to spread. Sooner or later, it will impact your company. It’s always best to be proactive and get ahead of a problem, instead of trying to catch something that is blowing in the wind.