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Stoner Myth Debunked: Workers Who Use Marijuana Do Not Have More Accidents

A new study shows employees who use cannabis are not at higher risk for injury on the job.

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Workers who drink beer on the weekend don’t get penalized — or potentially lose their job — if their boss finds out on Monday. The same goes for those who partake in a glass of wine or a shot of whiskey. But workers who consume marijuana? That's a different story.

Carlos Fernandez | EyeEm | Getty Images

Some workplaces, even those in states where cannabis is legal for recreational use, still perform drug tests on employees for marijuana use. These employers believe cannabis use can impair work performance. But a new study shows that, like so many other marijuana myths, it’s simply not true.

Accidents happen to all people.

Researchers in Canada looked at the rate of accidents among employees with and without regular cannabis use over the last year. They discovered that those who used cannabis were no more likely to experience an accident or injury at work than those who didn’t use cannabis.

Remarking on the study’s findings, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said it is time for workplace policies “to cease punishing employees for activities they engage in during their off-hours that pose no workplace safety threat.”

Related: 5 Ways To Reverse The Toxic Workplace Culture Of Cannabis

The study, published in the journal Occupational Medicine, was conducted by researchers from the University of Toronto’s Department of Occupational Medicine. It monitored more than 136,000 Canadian workers over four years.

Researchers focused on ascertaining if an association exists between getting high in off-work hours and experiencing a work-related injury on the job. As it turned out, the answer is “no.” The university researchers did a cross-sectional analysis of the Canadian Community Health Survey for 136,536 workers between 2013 and 2016. They used multiple logistic regression modeling to calculate the odds that a worker who had used cannabis in the prior 12 months would experience an injury, then compared it to the odds of the same thing happening to a non-cannabis user.

“We found no evidence that cannabis users experienced higher rates of work-related injuries,” the researchers wrote. They noted that, “occupational medicine practitioners should take a risk-based approach to drafting workplace cannabis policies.”

It’s that last part that will likely prove tricky. Some business leaders have been reluctant to let go of the drug testing practices in place for decades.

Related: Cannabis Culture Is Fast Becoming Corporate Culture

But the drug tests persist.

The tide has started to turn when it comes to drug testing. The state of Nevada won’t let companies throw out job applicants who test positive for cannabis. Sports leagues have stopped penalizing players for cannabis use. But many states still don’t provide legal protections for employees fired for cannabis use, even where recreational or medical marijuana is legal.

In that context, marijuana proponents saw the study results as another step in the right direction. For many, it seems illogical to fire employees for doing something perfectly legal in their off-hours.

This is also not the only study to find that off-hours cannabis use does not impact the workplace. For example, San Diego State University recently released a study that found that those who use cannabis do not have worse performance on the job on their own time.

Armentano said the recent study again shows that employers need to modernize their thinking about cannabis use among employees. “Suspicionless marijuana testing in the workplace is not now, nor has it ever been, an evidence-based policy,” he said in the statement. “Rather, these discriminatory practices are a holdover from the zeitgeist of the 1980s war on drugs.”