Recreational Pot Could Burn Employers
By HOWARD C. SAMUELS
EMPLOYERS, get ready.
Walking through your doors in our brave new world
of legalized marijuana will likely be any number of
employees stoned. If you ask yourselves just how pot — more
pervasive and public — will impact the workplace, the short
answer is: in ways you won’t like to imagine, none of them
A frightening argument is
that smoking a joint is as
acceptable as having a beer at
lunch. Not by a long shot.
My vantage point is unique, blending both the personal
and professional. I’m an addict in recovery (for 32 years) who
owes a personal, painful path of drug dependency over the
decades to smoking my first joint before age 16. It was the
beginning of my five-year addiction to marijuana that was all
downhill from there: heroin, cocaine, prescription drugs.
In my professional role today on the front line as an addic
tion therapist for 25 years, I have treated thousands of addicts,
of whom I estimate 95 percent fell off that same cliff that start-
ed with recreational marijuana.
I do not have to sift through stacks of studies, because I
know from personal experience and evaluating other addicts
about the psychological downsides to using marijuana — the
panic and anxiety attacks, uncontrollable anger, lack of motiva
tion and impulse control, and stunted brain growth at younger
Stoned or drunk?
Apply such unfortunate characteristics to employees at vir
tually any business. In essence, is there any difference in com
ing to work stoned or drunk? The effect on your business is the
same — the missing productivity quotient, employees lacking
focus, motivation, sleep. There’s the additional soft cost of
monitoring, disciplining, and even tenninating, errant employ
ees. And, if your business relates to safety products or services,
what type of testing procedures are you implementing?
frightening argument is that smoking a joint is as accept
able as having a beer at lunch. Not by a long shot. There is
a key distinction about using marijuana. Although moderate
alcohol consumption can be a socialization tool, the same can
not be said for pot. Getting stoned is the sole reason for using.
There’s no moderation with marijuana. This is truer now
than ever before because today’s marijuana is significantly
more potent than what most people realize. While I don’t
expect everyone will become addicted to pot, my concern is
that it’s within the realm of probability that 10 percent to 20
percent of those trying it for the first time will become hooked
and move to harder, more dangerous drugs. The notion that
marijuana helps ease PTSD, anxiety, and other health disorders
is irresponsible. So does a drink of Scotch, but does that really
treat the underlying disorder?
The irony is that greater access could have a positive effect
on my addiction treatment business. I don’t view that as pos
itive. I accept the new law, but ask people to remember that
trading on the message that the drug is harmless is a fool’s
mission. It’s not harmless –just ask a few thousand of the per
manently damaged addicts I have treated.
Understand from the get-go that any number of employees
will simply want to get loaded, coast through the workday, and
check out. How does one calculate this cost to business?
Howard C. Samuels is chi ef executive of the Hills Treatment
Center in Los Angeles and author of “Alive Again.”
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