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Issue 2 Is Catch 22 For Employers; Job Safety will Suffer as Result

By Pat Tiberi

Ohio employers are required by law to provide safe workplaces. Workers and their families are entitled to know that everything possible is being done to keep workers safe, and see that they return home at night uninjured.

As Ohio’s sharply declining workers compensation rates amply show, employers are taking workplace safety seriously, and doing a good job.

Now comes Ohio’s Issue 2, which would legalize marijuana and its intoxicating agent, THC for adult recreational use in Ohio. Legalization creates a certainty that Ohio will see a significant uptick in workers who are high at work from marijuana consumption.

For some people, it is obvious when they are “stoned,” and employers will be able to prevent them from endangering themselves or others by, for example, keeping them from operating heavy equipment.

Many other people can be marijuana-impaired and exhibit no outward signs, but they are in fact affected by loss of mental acuity, impaired space and time perception, slowed reaction time, disorientation, and impaired judgment. Obviously, these impairments make performance of certain jobs dangerous both to the user, and to workers around them. And they negatively affect performance, even on jobs where safety is not a concern.

The catch 22 for employers is that they are required by law to provide safe workplaces on one hand, but on the other marijuana use will be state-sanctioned, and there is no real time test available for employers to prove impairment and apply needed restrictions or discipline. This is because long-used urine testing indicates the presence of marijuana in the system, but not impairment. Marijuana can remain in the system for as many as 30 days although impairment only lasts 4-10 hours.

We don’t need to speculate on the results. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported a study finding that people who test positive for marijuana have 55 percent more industrial accidents, 85 percent more injuries, and 79 percent greater absenteeism than those who test negative.

Issue 2 creates the conflict between marijuana use policy on one hand, and employers’ obligations to provide safe workplaces on the other. These conflicts will require years of litigation to resolve involving workers, employers, unions, growers and sellers, and create huge potential liability and insurance challenges in the process. All of these will be a drag on Ohio’s current roaring economy, a by-product of the pain of injury that thousands of Ohio will suffer.

Marijuana today is NOT the benign substance many adults remember from their younger years, and the negative consequences of legalizing it are going to be broad and deep. It’s not a good idea for Ohio. A NO vote on Issue 2 is best for our employers, workers, worker families, and our overall economy.

Pat Tiberi is the President and CEO of the Ohio Business Roundtable and former Congressman representing central Ohio. The Ohio Business Roundtable is an organization made up of Ohio CEOs, and advocates to advance the state’s economic competitiveness.

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