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Colorado study shows marijuana use more prevalent among workers in certain ‘safety sensitive’ jobs

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Denver — In Colorado, marijuana use among workers in certain jobs “in which workers have responsibility for their own safety or the safety of others” exceeds that of the state’s general workforce, according to a recent study from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Researchers analyzed data from the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System on more than 10,000 respondents who reported using marijuana at least once in the previous month.

They found that worker use in construction and extraction (16.5 percent); farming, fishing and forestry (16.5 percent); and health care support (15.8 percent) – all considered safety-sensitive occupations – was greater than in the state’s overall workforce (14.6 percent).

For safety-sensitive occupations in transportation and material moving (10.3 percent) and health care and technical (3.1 percent), however, the prevalence was lower than the state’s overall workforce.

Other findings:

  • The accommodation and food services industry led the way in marijuana use, at 30.1 percent, while food preparation and serving was top among occupations, at 32.2 percent.
  • Prevalence was greatest among respondents 18 to 25 years old, men, and non-Hispanic whites.
  • Marijuana use was lower in industries that perform regular drug testing, such as health care and social assistance (7.4 percent); utilities (5.8 percent); and mining, oil, and gas (5.2 percent).

“Understanding the industries and occupations of adults with reported marijuana use can help direct and maximize impact of public health messaging and potential safety interventions for adults,” the researchers said. “Awareness of possible employee recreational marijuana use can inform employer policies regarding drug use and workplace impairment.”

Colorado is one of 29 states and the District of Columbia that has laws legalizing marijuana for recreational or medical reasons.

The report was published April 13 in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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