There’s Marijuana in Your Supply Chain: How to Smoke It Out?

A recent study shows that a substantial number of employees go to work under the influence of pot. About 10 percent admit to having done so, and about 5 percent don’t rule out doing so again in the future! Scary stats:


Source: Mashable

(Granted, the sample size was only 500 or so people, and Mashable – whose typical audience member is more prone to be the weed-at-work type – carried out the survey via SurveyMonkey Audience; hardly definitive, we’d venture to say.)

However, taking these results at face value, as you can see, employees even take illegal drugs while at work (some of the funniest examples may be in the Comedy Central series Broad City) – and as more and more states make these legal, what is the impact on the supply chain? Someone at the College of the Redwoods (in Humboldt, CA) or Humboldt State or some other pot-friendly school must be interested in a taxpayer grant to study the effects of assembly-line work output under the influence of THC?

A Bit of Personal Background

As a quick aside, my family has owned a substantial slice of prime Humboldt growing land – the prior owners were the biggest growers in the area until their sudden demise. Most of the neighbors were into the “farming” business, so I have acquired some exposure to how that industry works. I have seen hundreds of pounds of the stuff, in drying rooms. Stacked and packed. Quite a fragrant business. As for partaking of the plant itself, there is no interest on my end. Cigars and red wine hold me over just fine.

As a free market libertarian, I don’t really care one way or the other about what people do with this stuff – but it does concern me from a workforce and supply chain point of view.

Of Cannabis and Company Policies

It’s safe to say that the effects of this drug don’t exactly enhance your productivity, and most likely reduces your sensitivity to deadlines, among other things. All of which is not conducive to a consistent, high-quality, deadline-driven manufacturing environment.

So how do you deal with this as an employer? Or as a buyer?

The argument all comes down to legality. Pot, back when it was illegal everywhere in the U.S., used to more easily fit into company policy – one positive drug test and bang, you’re done. Now we get into a gray area. If it is a legal product, which it is in several states (even for recreational use), what to do? Once it is prescribed for medical reasons you would probably be wise not to pry further, that’s likely interfering with the doctor-patient relationship or otherwise stepping on some federal law like HIPAA and the health information privacy rules. Tricky indeed. But what about recreational-smoking timecard-punchers?

Just because it is legal does not mean it is appropriate for the workplace, and indeed potentially harmful for productivity, efficiency and even safety – in the same way alcohol consumption is not only frowned upon (unless you work in a paper mill in Siberia), but likely called out in many an employee handbook.

A Recommendation

My advice would be to include this in your onboarding process – start to document the relevant policies and procedures of your supply base. Over time, as formal courts (and in media) start to pin this down better, then you can revise and devise policies of your own. (Policies on paper are of course only as good as enforcement, which is another issue entirely; once an HR policy is made, and procurement policy conforms to it – don’t even get us started on PR/marketing departments – what should the company-wide enforcement protocol look like?) I expect some DOT/OSHA cases to come first – as the saying goes, it’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye.

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