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After-hours Cannabis Use Has No Impact on Work Performance, Survey Finds

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Aug 13, 2020   
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Despite major shifts in public opinion, many stereotypes about cannabis consumers still persist – most notably, the cliché of the lazy stoner. And as no employer wants to hire a lay-about, many workers in states with legal recreational cannabis access still choose to keep their marijuana use private.

But a new study has partly challenged the notion that cannabis can worsen a worker’s performance. Published in the journal Group & Organization Management, the study surveyed 281 employees and their direct supervisors and found no relationship between consuming cannabis after work and an employee’s performance on the job.

Consuming the drug prior to or during work, on the other hand, was associated with a reduced work ethic.

Joints on the job

Described as “the first study isolating cannabis in relation to workplace behaviors in nearly 20 years,” the new research aimed to illuminate how legal cannabis in the US could be affecting the operations of everyday businesses and organizations.

To source their data, the researchers recruited 281 employees and managers via social media and referrals from university business students. The average age of employees was 36, while the average age of employers was 44.

As part of the survey, each employee self-reported their cannabis consumption and how it related to their work shift. Their supervisors were asked to assess their employee's task performance, citizenship behavior, and counterproductive work behavior.

After sifting through the responses, the researchers found that employees who consumed cannabis before and during their job hours were often deemed worse workers by their employers. Supervisors were more likely to note that such employees showed reduced “citizenship behavior” (helpfulness) toward the organization.

However, the results also showed that employers didn’t significantly penalize those who used cannabis after work.

“Our research suggests there is no evidence that after-work usage compromises work performance as assessed by one’s direct supervisor,” remarked Dr Jeremy Bernerth, a management professor at San Diego State University's Fowler College of Business and lead author of the study.

Writing in a press statement, Bernerth also suggested that after-hours cannabis use may offer some work-related benefits.

“Individuals deciding to consume cannabis after finishing their work may be able to distract themselves from stressful on-the-job issues,” he said. “The relaxation induced by cannabis may help employees restore energy spent during the day and they may subsequently return with more stamina to devote to their job once they are back on the clock.”

“Since our study shows that off-the-job cannabis use has little to no impact on workplace performance, organizations will be hard-pressed to provide legally defensible justifications for the continuation of policies prohibiting all forms of cannabis use,” he added.

Marijuana, labor, and study limitations

To give the participants anonymity, Bernerth’s study didn’t disclose the professions of any of the workers or their supervisors.

This oversight may be irrelevant, but as manual labor jobs can often pose more immediate health risks to workers than office-based occupations, consuming cannabis while performing such physically demanding riles could be more consequential.

According to a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, employees who tested positive for marijuana had 55 percent more industrial accidents and 85 percent more injuries than employees who tested negative.

And in his own study, Bernerth also notes that habitual cannabis consumption can lead to substance dependence over time. As such, “future research that compares the short-term and long-term health implications of after-work cannabis use and other recovery activities would provide further guidance in this area.”


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