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Marijuana Use in The Workplace: Mental Health Professionals

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In recent years the United States has been progressive in the legalization of marijuana. As of January 2017, almost 30 states have legalized marijuana use in some form and eight of those states (including the District of Columbia) have flat-out legalized it. But, does this allow for marijuana use in the workplace?

Today, one key issue to arise from the new laws is understanding marijuana use in the workplace, which has sparked new industries and specializations, like lawyers that specialize in workplace marijuana policies. There have been quite a few court cases (Coats v. Dish Network) surrounding the issue of how employers manage cannabis use by their employees; however, there aren’t as many stories surrounding marijuana use from the employer or owner of the business.  

In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Jeffrey Zucker, founder of Green Lion Partners, was very open about his marijuana use in the workplace during open hourss. Zucker explained that he consumes a reasonable amount, about 5 milligrams, in order to be more creative and focused. It’s not surprising that Zucker admitted his use, considering his company’s mission statement; “to create and support solutions for the cannabis industry that address current needs and build the foundation of a sustainable future.” His job is to demonstrate responsible use and to support the marijuana industry.

But what about licensed mental health counselors and allied health professionals? Should they be allowed marijuana use in the workplace while meeting with a client/patient?

Microdosing Aids in Productivity & Control

Many marijuana users say they feel more focused, creative, productive, and more in control when they take a small dose before working. A law firm IT director out of Los Angeles also recently spoke with Bloomberg, admitting he consumes multiple low-dose mints per day. “I’m not digesting a crazy amount of marijuana…I’m active all day, functioning, and completing my tasks,” he said. The key for healthcare professionals is to ingest only a small amount of THC, also called microdosing.

Microdosing is the consumption of no more than 5 milligrams of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana that gives users the “high” feeling. Kiva Confections, an edibles maker based out of California, said Kiva Terra Bites are their best seller, only containing 5 milligrams of THC.

Transparency plays a very important role in the patient/mental health professional relationship. Just as the mental health professional wants to know if their patient is under the influence of any drugs during counseling sessions, patients should have the right to know whether or not their licensed mental health counselor allows marijuana use in the workplace. Failure to disclose in such use could lead to liability and even some ethical issues.

Risk & Liability Concerns

Mental and allied health professionals, even drug and alcohol counselors, may be legally allowed to consume marijuana during the work day because there are hundreds of types of strains available, allowing the consumer/user to pick what’s appropriate for their needs. Teek Dwivedi, CEO of Ehave, a company developing solutions for the medical cannabis industry to improve patient outcomes, believes anyone can absolutely use cannabis during work hours and still remain quite productive.

“The use of cannabis does not mean that there is always an adverse side effect that can impact one’s work. Scientists can alter the amount of THC in a single strain (and) this is especially important for those who need cannabis to perform normal daily functions,” said Dwivedi. The general working public isn’t using marijuana during working hours to get completely “blasted.” Top employees of huge companies, doctors, lawyers, and CEOs are turning to cannabis as a way to help them get through the day.

“While each mental health professional has their own methodology for seeing clients, I feel patients have a right to know whether they are being treated by someone who’s under the influence of any psychoactive substance, whether it’s non-toxic by nature or otherwise,” said Shanel Lindsay, CEO of Ardent.

Healthcare professionals can help limit their liability by remaining transparent with their patients/clients and by consuming a healthy amount of cannabis on an as needed basis. It’s a delicate balancing act that can help with their risk management.

“It’s one thing for a producer to say that they have a strain for anxiety, but it’s impactful if they can prove that it helps with anxiety and still lets you function because you are not high. So imagine when this data exists, both clinicians and patients can choose cannabis that is proven to work for their condition and lets them function. That’s where we are heading,” said Dwivedi.

Author bio: Kari Luckett is a freelance writer and content strategist, focusing on topics of personal finance and current events. Residing on the Bible Belt, Kari knows it will be a long time before cannabis is legal in South Carolina. This post was originally written for CPHINS

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