The enactment of Proposition 64 legalized recreational marijuana for California residents age 21 years and older. They are now free to smoke, vape or consume marijuana-laced treats without fear of criminal prosecution.
However, significant cultural and legal changes in the state can lead to misconceptions about the newly legal drug and its effects on job safety, particularly work done on construction sites.
A prominent part of Prop 64 addresses professionals in safety-sensitive fields, including the construction industry. The new law allows California employers to penalize workers and contractors who test positive for marijuana use, even if an employee shows no signs of being under the influence.
Drug-testing policies at work are still in place. While no longer a crime, a positive result for marijuana results in more than job loss. Construction industry professionals face dangers on a daily basis. Operating large trucks and heavy machinery present risks that increase when combined with the newly legal practice.
One worker under the influence can cause an accident leading to serious and fatal injuries. The most remote possibility of a catastrophe requires high standards of safety and vigilance by the employer and common sense and restraint by the employee.
Construction companies also need to consider the financial implications in addition to the costs involved in a serious accident that injures workers. Many projects involve federal contracts and funding that requires a drug-free zone. The discovery that an impaired worker or contractor caused an accident could also lead to the loss of a valuable project.