Impact of Medical Marijuana on the Hiring Process Essay

The success and growth of an organization in any industry is reliant on its human resources. Even though there are numerous factors that play a major role, a firm needs to hire effective employees to stay competitive and financially solvent. Employees are the human capital in any organizational setting. If this human capital is projected to be retained and diligently perform their respective duties, they need to be selected and recruited on a fair and competitive basis. The employers rely on the workers they hire to be productive and accident free. Before hiring any employees, the firm needs to be in compliance with the various employment laws. During the hiring process, the applications are reviewed, right candidates selected for interview, candidates are tested, the hiring decision is made by choosing between the candidates, and carrying out various pre-employment tests and checks including drug tests. The employment may be dependent upon a negative drug test. However, they are people who have been prescribed to use drugs, especially marijuana for medical purposes at the workplace. Therefore, drawing on a variety of sources the paper will discuss the impact of medical marijuana on the hiring process after contacting four human resources via computer-assisted interviews.


Recruitment and selection is a very important human resource task. Elearn (15) defines recruitment as the process of establishing that the firm requires employing qualified people through competitive application. On the other hand, selection entails the processes of selecting applicant (s) who is/are suitable candidate(s) to fill a post. Four human resource managers (HR) were interviewed, two were in the automobile sector and two were in the beverage industry. They were contacted via computer-assisted interviews because face-to-face interviews required numerous authorizations and travelling. Therefore, the computer assisted interviews were convenient. The interviewees consisted of: Arnnon Geshuri sof Tesla Motors, 3500 Deer Creek Road, Palo Alto, CA 94304, 650-681-500; James Williams of Polaris Industries Inc. who joined the firm in 2011. Contacts Marlys Knutson, 763-542-0533; Rebecca Alminiana of Monster Beverage Corporation. Contacts, 951-270-0660, Corona CA; finally, Elsa Monterroso-Burgos who is the director of human resources at Tampico Beverages company. Contacts 3106 North Campbell Ave, Chicago, IL. 60618, (773) 296-0190.

Based on the interview responses I got from the four HR managers in the automobile industry as well as beverage industry, the hiring process comprises of first, application. The position is usually advertised. The aim of the advertisement is to find the maximum number of appropriate candidates who will apply for the job. The advertisement provides the potential candidate with adequate information to make a decision that the job is worth applying for (Zweig 56). The advertisement also enables the applicants to have a good idea of what you are looking for. Second is application review. After the job applications have been made, the recruitment team reviews the applications comparing the candidates’ experience, education, and skills with the requirements of the position.

Third, the candidates are tested for job skills to establish if one is qualified for the position. As cited by Arthur (33), the tests can include physical tests, skills test, and personality tests. From the tests, the selection is narrowed down to a few applicants. Assessing the personal style, presentation, empathy, and rapport building skills before the application form is handed gives the hiring manager the opportunity to assess the candidates resting state before they show up in an interview (Rey and Mignin 56-57). Fourth is the scheduling of the interviews. Beardwell and Claydon write, “An interview is a meeting between the employer and job seeker to determine if the candidate has the required qualifications for the job” (23). The four human resource managers argued that the face-to-face interviews tell them more regarding the candidate. Next is selecting candidates based on a pre-determined selection criterion. In a view shared by Zweig (78), the interview panel formulates a screening questionnaire used to qualify the candidates who are applying. Anything that is not relevant to the job is not screened. Those candidates who pass the screening are then selected by comparing their qualifications to a pre-determined list of qualifications including interview notes and test results. Sixth is employment background screening. The universal background screening can be used to provide employment checks, such as searches of government and industry-specific sanction list, validation of past employment, drug addiction, professional licenses and certification, and county, state and federal criminal records. Cascio (45) argues that these checks are conducted to verify what the applicant stated on his application is true and can be verified. If an applicant is found to have provided untrue information generally lays the ground for the job offer to be rescinded.

Next, reference checks are also conducted and are often the professional acquaintances that the candidate has worked for. The common reference check questions include salary, employment length, and work ethic, as well as reason for separation (Magoon and Aubin 98-102). To sum up, before the final selection of the successful candidates, another area that determines whether a person is employed is the employment drug testing. As noted by Elearn (75), the universal background screening provides various workplace drug testing services for pre-employment and ongoing testing purposes. The employment offer is reliant on a negative drug test. Therefore, medical marijuana has a very significant effect on the hiring process.

Marijuana is the most abused drug in the United State (Berger).Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, possession and use of marijuana is illegal (Gardner and Anderson 444). Studies have demonstrated that marijuana can be used for medical purposes for treatment or reducing symptoms of cancer, diabetes, dementia, epilepsy, glaucoma, Tourette syndrome, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease, hepatitis C, muscular dystrophy among others (Aggarwal, et al., 153). Even though employers have the right to formulate any rule that prohibits marijuana use even with medical prescription, the marijuana-related rules have affected the selection and recruitment process. The majority of the population is against the negative attitude towards drugs, as evidenced in the number of states that legalized marijuana use on medical grounds. In 2009, the Department of Justice announced leaving of the handling of medical marijuana users as well as enforcement of the marijuana law in the hands of the state and local government (Shilling 26). According to Bender, 20 states as well as the District of Columbia have passed a law that allows the utilization of marijuana for medical purposes. Besides that, Washington together with Colorado has recently ratified a legislation that permits the recreational use of marijuana. The drug’s legality raises questions about the employer’s response to an applicant who fails a drug test.

According to Cihon and Castagnera (56), the employers have to choose either to allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes or not. However, the legalization of the medical marijuana affects the hiring process because there are state laws that restrict segregation against patients in the employment decisions. Bender observes that in the states of Delaware, Arizona, Rhode Island, and Maine the employers have the obligation not to refuse to hire someone based on his or her condition as a marijuana patient. Especially in Delaware and Arizona, a positive drug test during the hiring process cannot give an employer adequate reasons for dismissal, unless the candidate or employee was in possession of the drug while either on the premises of the prospective employer or during the working hours. This is evidenced in ARS36-2813 and Del Title 16, [4005(A)]. Nonetheless, none of these statutes have been tested in court.

Another impact of using medical marijuana in the hiring process is where the position has safety as a factor. Workers who hold positions that need the operation of machines, most regulations do not allow the operation of any machine while under influence. On the other hand, for instance, Delaware and Rhode Island have passed laws which stipulate that a registered medical marijuana patient is not regarded as operating a machine under the influence only because of the presence of the marijuana in the worker’s system (Bender). As a result, the interviewed HR managers reported that they have to abide by the state laws and hire such people even though they test positive for marijuana.

In all the states, the employers are supposed to take into consideration the issues which can be implicated from an employee’s utilization of the medical marijuana. Irrespective of the state laws, the Occupational and Safety and Health Act (OSHA) stipulates that employees need to provide a safe workplace (Campbell 145). In the same way, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) do not require the employers to accommodate an employee with a status that may lead to the creation of an unsafe working condition. However, there are statutes that prohibit discrimination of patients.

The ADA prohibits “imposition of qualification standards that tend to discriminate people with disability” (Shilling 26). On August 2013, the state of Illinois became the 20th state to legalize the use of marijuana as a medicine under a 4-year pilot project authorized by the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act (Shilling 28). The medical marijuana law in Illinois came into effect on January 1, 2014. The law allows the registered user to buy up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana after every 14 days for state licensed dispensary. The state’s Department of Health has issued cards for the qualifying patients (Ogletree Deakins). In New Hampshire, the patient may purchase up to 10 ounces after every ten days. In relation to the effect to the hiring process, in the State of Illinois a candidate who tests positive for marijuana on medical grounds can still be offered the job. Section 40(a)[1] of the state laws stipulate that an employer can be penalized for refusing to hire a prospective employee just because of “his or her status as a registered qualified patient” (Vallerius 119). However, the Act also has provisions that the employers retain the significant rights. This implies that since they have a contract with the federal government and it illegalizes marijuana use, they may prohibit individuals using marijuana even on a medical basis. The enforcement of the policy needs to be conducted in a non-discriminatory manner as outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, an employer who refuses to employ a registered user of marijuana for failing a drug test risks losing a federal contract. This has left employers in confusion.

In Colorado, the state law prohibits firing of employees for lawful off-duty behavior including using marijuana for medical purposes. This could result in adverse employment action if the medical marijuana user has a disability for ADA purposes (Shilling 28).

The legalization of marijuana in the state of Colorado has impacted positively in firms in the state. According to Sullivan, the marijuana law has influenced the selection and recruitment in that region. Firms that have been attempting to attract young talent have started to get a noticeable increase in the number of applicants who consider the new law as a positive thing. For instance, Sullivan records that the University of Colorado had a 33% increase in freshman enrollments in 2014. In the same way, a social media firm or design firm may find the liberal marijuana law a bit attractive to a target workforce that is both creative and young. The legalization law could also attract talented persons with medical issues which are assisted by marijuana.

Another employment practice affected by medical marijuana during the hiring process is the manner in which the drug tests are conducted. It has been evidenced that the employers are facing difficulties regarding prospective employees who have failed drug tests due to their medical conditions. Shilling (30) asserts that pre-employment drug testing is more likely to be upheld by the courts as compared to the testing of current employees. In theory, the prospective employee has a legitimate right of privacy. For example, in West Virginia; a ruling was made in 2003 requiring the job applicants to undertake a drug a test. However, this was not mandatory for the current employees or applicants. In this perspective, the employer need to be cautious in relation to making changes about medical marijuana, but they should also acknowledge that a person possessing marijuana beyond the stipulated amounts at the company premises are liable to federal punishment. The employers need to shift the testing of marijuana in the applicants system to one that measures the person’s impairment while on the job.

If companies have drug tests, they need to explain to the applicants the reason they are required and if they apply to marijuana’s use. Besides that, the HR managers need to put into consideration that marijuana can be manifested in the drug tests 6 months after its use and they should let the applicants know that.

According to Berger, the changes in the marijuana law have presented the employers with numerous challenges. Marijuana can stay in the human system for up to 6 months. This is because tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); stimulating element in cannabis is not water-soluble, and therefore remains in the body and bloodstream for up to 30 days after consumption. This may result for a positive marijuana test during drug screening if one applies for a job 3 months after consumption. The challenge is further heightened if a person uses the drug for medicinal purposes. There are statutes that decriminalize use of medical marijuana. To clear the confusion between the federal and state laws confusion, companies need to come up with a comprehensive drug policy (Berger). The applicants will be required to be aware of the manner in which the drug screening activities are done, the number of times the drug test is conducted, and also who is subject to the drug. Furthermore, the procedures need to be enforced so that there will be no confusion of what the consequence will be in case of violation of the drug policy. The applicants will need to be made aware of the provisions of testing positive for an illegal substance such as marijuana.

Since the medical marijuana affects the hiring process, the HR manager needs to establish what elements of marijuana utilization is supposed to be covered during onboarding. The HR is also required to a frequently asked questions section about what the company stipulates or requires regarding the issues of marijuana use. Working with the legal department, the HR manager provides the hiring team with prewritten answers to the prospective employees.

Even though various states allow the medical use of marijuana, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) still categorizes marijuana as a Schedule One drug (Martin, Rosenthal and Carter 78). Therefore, the state laws associated with using marijuana for medicinal purposes need to be reviewed. Besides, even the state law has its limitations. As an example, the medical marijuana law in Alaska argues that no accommodation is required for marijuana utilization in any workplace environment. As cited by Aggarwal et al. (154), the state laws are inconsistent with federal laws. Due to these inconsistencies, the employer need to review their current policies linked to drugs and employment so as to address the issue of using marijuana as a medicine.

If the job is safety-sensitive subject to statutes that forbid on and off work drug use, the employer is supposed to enforce a policy on a zero-tolerance drug-free workplace. This is to be adhered to irrespective of the state laws allowing certain people to be hired for such positions.

However, it is still vital to ensure that people are not discriminated against due to their utilization of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Disregarding the state law, firms must make sure prospective employees are tested for drugs in a fair, consistent, and discriminatory way. So as to avoid the claims of discrimination, the employers are supposed to respond in a consistent way to failed drug tests from legitimate users of medical marijuana. If an organization makes provisions for exceptions for authorized user of marijuana for medical purposes, the exceptions are to be provided in a consistent manner.


The hiring process ensures that the best candidate suitable for the position is selected. The employers have the right to prohibit the use of marijuana at the work premises. However, the medical marijuana law is relevant to the recruitment process. As more states continue to change laws relating to medical marijuana use, the task of enforcing the drug policy during drug test is getting more complex. The human resources managers are grappling with questions as to whether drug tests amount to discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This demonstrates the significant effect of medical marijuana in the employment sector, particularly during hiring process and drug test. While the federal law prohibits the use of marijuana, more than 20 states have passed legislations that allow the prospective candidates or current employees to use marijuana for medical purposes. The ADA also prohibits discrimination during the hiring process based on ADA disability. This has impacted the employment sector both positively and negatively depending on the workplace policies of the employer.

The hiring managers need to spend time to identify the issues linked to the effect of any high-profile state laws and then come up with a plan to tackle the identified issues and opportunities. Practically, the employers need to consult with legal counsel in order to fully evaluate their drug-free workplace policies and procedures to ensure compliance with any applicable regulations. This reduces the risk for potential discrimination claims and steers clear of potential penalties by the Federal Government.

Works Cited

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