Recreational Marijuana: Cause and effect in the Oilfield? The forthcoming battle for employers!
Although I was a bit hesitant to write this, recent events in the State Of Colorado has more or less made this a national topic and of course it will be a very debated subject in the oilfield.
First and foremost, I wish to make it clear that I personally do not condone or support the use of any motion or mind altering drug, whether legal or not, for use on any oilfield operation. Our industry is dangerous enough without adding any other factor into daily operations where a clear head and fast reactions to any situation are an absolute must. The lives of too many people are at risk where quick and concise actions by any and all are must for survival in many operational situations. With that being said, it is the context of this scenario by which we will discuss off the job usage and only that.
The current scenario is such that the Federal Government has more or less, washed it's hands of the whole marijuana usage issue and placed it firmly upon the shoulders of the State Governments. As all of us have seen, Colorado has opened its doors to both medical and recreational usage as of Jan 01, 2014. A lot of people have seen this coming, the pros and cons have vigorously been debated from both sides of the fence. None of the debates on board any rig that I was on ever proposed the usage on board the vessel in any shape, form or fashion. We are a sort of hard core bunch but even we know better than to allow that sort of activity way out there in the middle of nowhere where our lives depend on quick and immediate responses to danger. None of us want crane operators, subsea engineers, drillers, etc., stoned out of their mind running equipment and making snap decisions which could cost us all dearly. Self preservation for offshore hands is game rule number 1 at all times.
Now here is where it's going to get interesting for Operators, Contractors, Legal Departments and even HR and Recruiters. I see more and more states that will follow Colorado's example, even outside California, real soon. The monetary gains for states is too vast to ignore, sales taxes will soar, permits, licensing, etc., will be a new and steady source of income to the state coffers. Let's not forget that as soon as it becomes legal, each and every person now serving time in State Correctional facilities can be released thus saving the budget nearly $65,000 per inmate per year. The court systems can now flush every pending marijuana case on the books and relieve themselves of that load and expense as well. Local and state police and even the DEA will no longer be inclined to deal with this as it will surely fall under the BATF to regulate sales and growth. DUI of course will still be available to local and state enforcement agencies with new testing procedures and so forth.
Now where it's going to get sticky for employers, is those pre-employment drug screens and random tests on board and perhaps at the heliports. For the moment, it is my understanding that the states will more or less give employers the right to maintain their policies on the use of marijuana. As we all know from past experience, this will last only as long as the first major civil liberties lawsuit is taken to court. The dilemma being, if you live in a state where marijuana is legal for recreational use and as a citizen of the state, you partake of said substance on your time off in compliance of the law, what will the consequence of that in regards to being tested at your place of employment outside of your home state? Even more so, can you be denied employment in a non legal state on an initial drug screen if it is perfectly legal in you home state?
I can safely say, this is going to be a legal nightmare for employers from one end of the USA to the other. Civil Liberties vs Employer Rights will no doubt be a media frenzy and capture a lot of attention. Myself and many a rig hand have debated this vigorously with the pros and cons concerning individual rights and the employers. The resolutions to every scenario never were agreed upon to the satisfaction of both sides of the fence. I write this article to see what everyone else out there has to say on the subject. There is no doubt that employer legal departments have been kicking this scenario around for quite a while. It will be interesting to see what the general oilfield populace has to say on this subject.