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The Changing Drug Landscape and How it Impacts Your Business

FBI Headquarters

In The Wall Street Journal on May 20, there was a story that grabbed the  headlines of other media outlets around the country – FBI ‘Grappling’ With  Hiring Policy Concerning Marijuana. The main takeaway point in the article was FBI Director James B. Comey noting that to keep pace with cyber criminals, the agency needs to hire more young hackers and programmers – and that pool of talent has a real fondness for marijuana.

“I have to hire a great work force to compete with those cyber criminals and  some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview,” Comey said.

Considering the FBI has, to this point, led the way on zero-tolerance drug policies, this is an interesting test case for the way business seems to be moving. If the FBI decides to look the other way when it comes to the usage of certain recreational drugs, what does that say about the “war on drugs” as a whole? And how does that impact your business?

In states across the country, there are bills up for a vote to legalize the use of marijuana. While the bills are mostly written to include medical use only, the popular culture recognizes that in those states, “medical use” is a broad term and getting the drug is not difficult. As decriminalization continues over probably the next several years, business owners will be faced with the same problem the FBI is looking at now – talented and otherwise well-qualified individuals who also like to “smoke weed.”

Small business owners, especially those in states where it is either already in the process of being legalized, or will soon be, should take this opportunity to consider what your own policies will be. For the foreseeable future, counting it as part of your zero-tolerance policy is certainly an option, and one many will take. However, if you are looking to hire or keep workers from the younger generations, this might put you at a disadvantage.

Another option, and one that I would suggest most small businesses think strongly about, would be to adopt the same policies for marijuana that you have for alcohol. It’s not illegal and you don’t care if your employees are drinking when they are off the clock. But during business hours, you expect them to be on time, well-rested and ready to perform their duties. This means no coming in to work inebriated or taking steps to become inebriated while on the job.

This should be part of your company handbook, along with alcohol usage, any “smoke break” policies you have, etc. And if you don’t have a company handbook, take this as an opportunity to create one. Every business, large or small, should have a handbook that outlines expectations and consequences. This way, you have something in place that lets you acknowledge that what people do on their own time is not your business, but that you expect them to be fully ready to engage in their work during business hours and, if they are not, you reserve the right to take action.

No matter what your personal feelings are about the legalization of marijuana, the fact remains that as a society we are moving toward recognizing it in the same category as smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol – maybe not the best habit, but legal nonetheless. And business owners who are staying current with those changing times and updating policies to reflect them will be the most likely to attract and retain the best and brightest the upcoming generations have to offer.  Image FBI Headquarters

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