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Weed, pot, ganja, Mary Jane.
By many idolized, yet not fully legalized.
Let’s find out what Americans think about marijuana use in the workplace and beyond.
Let’s get straight to the joint.
A 2021 Gallup report revealed that more than two in three Americans (68%) support legalizing marijuana.
It’s a record-high level. Part of a continuing trend of increasing support that’s been observed for more than five decades now.
Growing acceptance of marijuana use is an undeniable fact. And with so many citizens willing to legalize medical and recreational cannabis consumption, state laws are changing at a dizzying speed.
At the time of writing, 37 states have approved medical marijuana use, and 18 of those states and Washington, D.C., also have approved recreational use.
But does this rapidly changing legal landscape and growing acceptance mean greater tolerance for weed in the workplace? Read on to find out.
Almost 8 out of 10 (77%) respondents use marijuana.
87% of the confirmed cannabis users claimed that they do it for medical purposes, while 85% mention recreational use as well.
A perfect example of killing two birds with one stone, right? Healthy, happy, high.
Let's have a look at who is in that circle.
- There are no significant differences in the respondents’ gender (female – 77%, male– 81%) and political affiliation (Democrat– 80%, Republican – 86%).
- And surprisingly enough, there are as many marijuana users working from home as those who are in the workplace on-site.
Disparities were seen, however, in age groups, education levels, and industries.
- 25 years old or younger – 92% vs. 41 years old or older– 73%.
- Master’s degree or Doctorate – 90% vs. no college degree – 67%.
- Manufacturing industry – 90%vs. healthcare industry – 69%.
Fun fact. The percentage of weed smokers is highly comparable, regardless of location.
76% of the respondents live where marijuana use is legal, 81% where it is illegal and 82% where it is decriminalized. Perhaps marijuana is less tempting when legalized?
Asked how often they use marijuana, the respondents answered as follows:
- Every day – 28%
- Twice a week –38%
- Up to a few times a month – 16%
- Once a month –13%
- Up to a few times a year – 5%
64% of the surveyed have been using pot for 5 years or less (1-3 years – 30%, 3-5 years – 34%).
Weed at work
Does weed work at work?
68% of those surveyed may know the answer as they have some experience with marijuana use while working. The biggest “Yes” answer group is of employees aged 25 or younger (almost 9 out of 10, 85%).
Our interviewees were also asked if marijuana use has any impact on professional work and, if so, whether it is positive or negative. Here’s what they answered:
- 8 out of 10 respondents believe that smoking cannabis indeed influences professional work.
- Almost half (48%) of those surveyed perceive the impact of marijuana on work performance as positive, while 38% believe it is negative.
The respondents chose the following as examples of the positive impact of marijuana on professional work:
- Creativity boost – 52%
- Motivation to work – 48%
- High energy level – 44%
- Increased productivity – 43%
- Improved focus and concentration – 42%
On the other hand, these were picked as possible downsides of marijuana use in the workplace:
- Lack of energy – 52%
- Lack of focus and concentration – 51%
- Lack of motivation to work – 49%
- Decreased productivity – 45%
- Decline in creativity – 38%
Researchers at William Paterson University, the University of Cincinnati, Temple University, and the RAND Corporation conducted a study on marijuana legalization and work capacity based on workers' compensation benefits. A focus group were employees aged 40-62. What happens to their work capacity when the state where they work legalizes recreational marijuana?
Let’s check out the research findings.
- Annual income received from workers’ compensation by people in this age group declined by 21% after recreational marijuana was legalized. What’s more, it wasn’t because of fewer employees working.
- Labor supply increased but compensation claims fell.
- It seems the work capacity of those aged 40 to 62 grew.
Pain may be the answer.
The older you are, the more likely it is that you need painkillers. The research proves that when recreational marijuana is legalized, the number of prescriptions for chronic pain medications declines.
The ability to purchase the medication ‘over the counter’ may reduce hassle costs and/or stigma, which have been found to affect access in the context of other health products.
Another study by authors at San Diego State University and Auburn University examined the influence of cannabis consumption on work performance.
Based on the data gathered from 281 employees and their direct supervisors, the researchers found out that cannabis use before and during work negatively affects:
- task performance
- organization-aimed citizenship behaviors (defined as “informal, spontaneous, volitional behaviors that help the organization or people within the organization”)
- counterproductive work behaviors (such as distractions, pace of work, daydreaming, frequency of work breaks, and other time management issues negatively affecting job performance)
Employees who are intoxicated on the job from using cannabis prior to or during work might be less likely to notice when colleagues need assistance nor have the ability to divert attention away from their own tasks to others.
At the same time, after-work cannabis use did not relate (positively or negatively) to any of the workplace performance dimensions.
Well. A tough nut to crack.
What works for one doesn't necessarily work for another. Or at least not in the same way.
To test or not to test
Evolving marijuana laws have a broad impact on the workplace. And changes in regulations call for changes in marijuana testing.
There is no one way to deal with this burning issue. Also, workplace protections vary by state, and some cities have their own rules.
Employers adjust to the circumstances and character of the given position by taking various approaches.
- Some companies have stopped marijuana screening for prospective employees due to the belief that they were losing too many qualified candidates.
- For many, the only reason behind screening for marijuana is a justified suspicion that an employee is under the influence at work.
- A range of companies with higher-than-average turnover rates (e.g. working in hospitality sectors) have stopped all drug testing in fear of discouraging potential job candidates. Marijuana screening inhibited their ability to attract enough job applicants to stay in business.
- Employers tend to test only those employees who apply for jobs with safety risks. Those safety-sensitive positions include, for example, driving or piloting a vehicle and manufacturing. After all, it’s safer to smoke weed while using a computer than while cutting something with a knife.
And how does marijuana testing function in our respondents’ work environment?
- 7 out of 10 of the surveyed Americans work for companies that conduct drug tests for marijuana.
- 66% of the respondents know someone who was fired because they tested positive for marijuana use, while 67% know someone who was rejected from a recruitment process for the same reason.
Interestingly, there is a disparity in answers given by people with different lengths of work experience.
- 8 out of 10 respondents with work experience of 1-2 years declare that they know someone fired because of marijuana screening. On the contrary, the same answer was given only by 34% of the surveyed whose work experience exceeds 20 years.
- When asked “Do you know anyone who was rejected from a recruitment process because they tested positive for marijuana use?”, the situation was comparable. 82% of employees with work experience of 1-2 years said yes, vs. 43% of those with more than 20 years of work experience.
Well, “the more you live, the more you see” rule fails here.
It seems that the youngsters may have less experience when it comes to work, but not when it comes to marijuana.
Our respondents were also asked if, in their opinion, conducting drug tests invades employees’ privacy. More than three-quarters (78%) agreed with this statement.
Here are some detailed findings on top “Yes” answers given to that particular question:
- 25 years or younger – 90%
- 3-5 years work experience – 89% vs. 20+ years work experience – 66%
- Master’s degree or Doctorate holders – 87%
Another issue covered by our research dealt with a conflict between loyalty and legality.
The survey question was:
“Would you report a colleague to your employer if you saw them using marijuana at work?”
Curious? Almost three-thirds (61%) of the respondents would report it. Here are the details:
- 3-5 years of work experience – 80% vs. 20+ years of work experience – 24%
- Master’s degree or Doctorate holders – 87% vs. no college degree – 37%
- Republican– 73% vs. Democrat – 59%
Seriously, guys? Are you the same freedom fighters who want marijuana legalization? Not my circus, not my monkeys, it seems.
More research highlights:
- 59% of those surveyed declared that they would leave an employer who conducts drug tests for marijuana. Still, only 23% of employees with work experience exceeding 20 years claim the same.
- While asked “If you were an employer, would you conduct drug tests for marijuana?”, almost two-thirds (61%) overall answered that they would. But—
- The following demographics showed much higher levels of support for drug testing. Business and Finance workers (76%), Master’s degree or Doctorate holders (75%), and employees with work experience of 3-5 years (73%).
The burning issue of smoking pot
Some (il)legal stuff to discuss.
Our research revealed that 85% of respondents would like medical marijuana to be legal in all US states. At the same time, almost 8 out 10 respondents wish likewise when it comes to recreational cannabis.
Despite numerous, dynamic changes within state law regulations, possession or use of marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
Sad but true. At least for almost 80% of us.
Here are some insights on constant changes in cannabis legal regulations:
Cannabis decriminalization affects multiple aspects of the workplace, including recruiting efforts, safety plans, drug-testing policies and even social outings with clients. Some policy decisions will come down to employers' risk tolerance and culture. For example, are they OK with employees using cannabis with clients?
From a legal perspective, it’s fascinating. From an HR perspective, it’s, ‘Oh my gosh, could you do anything to make my life more complicated?’ Every day we turn around and find out there’s a state or city that legalizes some form of marijuana use. The challenge for HR is keeping up to speed with the current climate and what an employer can and cannot do with regard to marijuana and the workplace. It’s changing extremely fast.
Unless and until marijuana becomes legalized at the federal level or state laws become more uniform, employers face a complicated and ever-changing landscape.
Smoking at work: whenever, wherever?
The Excel spreadsheets match the office. White wine goes well with a romantic date.
Spreadsheets should stay in the workplace, wine waiting for you at home, in the fridge.
How about marijuana? Is it of a universal nature, perfect to smoke both at and after work?
- 66% of the interviewees would like to legally use cannabis in the workplace and almost that many (65%) believe it is ok to smoke marijuana at work. Still, legal use of cannabis in the work environment would not be welcomed by almost three-quarters (72%) of people with work experience exceeding 20 years.
- 8 in 10 of the respondents claim that it is ok to smoke marijuana after work and only 8% of the surveyed claim otherwise.
It is worth noting that the answers vary in different age groups.
93% of people who are 25 years old or younger like the idea of smoking after work. At the same time, this scenario is attractive to 73% of respondents aged 41 or older.
The appetite grows with eating, right? Or smoking, in that case.
Hard not to agree, looking at the below findings.
- 73% of all interviewees prefer to work for an employer that permits recreational marijuana use.
- Almost 9 in 10 (89%) people aged 25 or younger perceive an employer’s green light for recreational cannabis use positively and would like to work for such a person.
- More than three-quarters of respondents (78%) would be happy to see medical marijuana as part of their employee health benefits.
Same rules apply?
We are all equal before the law. No great secret to share.
Does the public eye see us the same way when it comes to marijuana?
Our respondents were asked to decide which professions should be allowed to use marijuana recreationally. Here are the results, with the percentage of “strongly agree” and “somewhat agree” answers:
- IT programmers – 75%
- Graphic designers – 73%
- Painters – 73%
- Hairdressers – 71%
- Surgeons – 70%
- Journalists – 70%
- Politicians – 69%
- Accountants – 68%
- Teachers – 65%
- Bus drivers – 64%
- Babysitters – 64%
Babies before technology, safety before art, hair before stomach.
As simple as that? Kind of.
According to our respondents, it’s green light to green leaf for them all. Let’s be clear though, here at ResumeLab we don’t advocate using any sort of intoxicant when you’re engaged in work that involves the safety and well-being of others.
The golden rule is that there are no golden rules.
Yet, there are some “marijuana in the workplace best practices”.
- Marijuana use on the job is like alcohol use on the job. (In)tolerable?.
- Company marijuana-use policies should be transparent. And revised based on changes to the law.
- Updating guidelines to address off-duty and off-premises cannabis use is welcomed.
- Up-to-date legal advice within employees’ and employers’ reach.
- Testing policy should be transparent and applied equitably.
Which path to follow? How to fully enjoy newly acquired rights regarding cannabis? Safer in moderation. Use but not misuse. And always adjust to the situation. Once again, it’s never a good idea to have your judgment affected in jobs where you’re responsible for the well-being of others. And don’t put your own safety at risk either.
It’s like alcohol. It’s not like a bunch of people are coming to work stoned.
So let’s finish with a smile and follow these words of wisdom.
The above-presented findings were obtained by surveying 1030 American respondents. They were asked questions relating to their experiences and attitudes towards marijuana use. These included yes/no questions, scale-based questions relating to levels of agreement with a statement, questions that permitted the selection of multiple options from a list of potential answers, and a question that permitted open responses.
The data presented relies on self-reports from respondents. Each person who took our survey read and responded to each question without any research administration or interference. There are many potential issues with self-reported data like selective memory, exaggeration, attribution, or telescoping. Some questions and responses have been rephrased or condensed for clarity and ease of understanding for readers.
Fair use statement
Want to share the findings of our research? Go ahead. Feel free to use our images and information wherever you wish. Just link back to this page, please—–it will let other readers get deeper into the topic. Additionally, remember to use this content exclusively for non-commercial purposes.
- Abouk R., Ghimire K. M., Maclean J. C. & Powell D., “Does Marijuana Legalization Affect Work Capacity? Evidence from Workers’ Compensation Benefits”
- Balk G., “1 in 4 marijuana users get high at work in states with legal weed, survey says”
- Bernerth J. B.& Walker H. J., “Altered States or Much to Do About Nothing? A Study of When Cannabis Is Used in Relation to the Impact It Has on Performance”
- Colvin G., “How cannabis actually affects productivity”
- Gallup, “Support for Legal Marijuana Holds at Record High of 68%”
- Lytle T., “Marijuana and the Workplace: It's Complicated”
- Nagele-Piazza L., “Marijuana Laws and the 2022 Workplace”
- National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Cannabis (Marijuana) Research Report. How does marijuana use affect school, work, and social life?”