February 28, 2019
Office of the Lieutenant Governor
200 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA 17020
Dear Lt. Gov. Fetterman,
As you undertake your statewide “listening tour” regarding the potential decriminalization of recreational marijuana use, I am compelled to share my concerns with you.
Please understand that this is not my personal opinion, which I decline to offer. Instead, these are the facts of life in the industry I represent.
As Governor Wolf correctly noted in his budget address, Pennsylvania is experiencing a workforce crisis that is limiting economic growth in the commonwealth. Employers cannot find enough qualified new hires to fully staff their operations, meaning that shifts can’t be added and bids can’t be sent out for new work. In the manufacturing sector, thousands of good-paying jobs with benefits go unfilled every year. As of mid-February 2019 there were more than 6,000 vacant manufacturing jobs statewide.
There are many reasons why a job applicant might not be hired for an open manufacturing position, but one of the most common is that the otherwise qualified applicant cannot pass a drug test. Before manufacturing employers can allow a new worker on the plant floor, that employee must be able to test clean. A potential new hire might take the test and fail it. Another might abandon his or her application after being told of an impending test. For the employer the result is the same: that applicant cannot be hired and a position will remain unfilled.
Why is drug testing necessary? Because in a manufacturing environment, many serious things are happening, often at once. Manufacturing involves heavy equipment, bladed instruments, chemical reactions, extreme temperatures, high voltage, and other operations that could get people seriously injured or even killed if not handled properly. I hope you will agree with me that the only acceptable number of workplace injuries – or, God forbid, fatalities – is ZERO. A manufacturing workforce that is not sober threatens workplace safety.
Beyond the moral imperative of operating a safe workplace, employers also have very serious legal responsibilities to do so. Employers must comply with federal OSHA standards and all state and local governmental regulators, in addition to having valid licenses, permits, and insurances - including workers’ compensation insurance. A sober workforce is necessary to fulfill these obligations for a safe workplace. Again, this is not an opinion. This is current law and there are significant legal and financial penalties for non-compliance.
Decriminalizing recreational marijuana use will increase marijuana usage both in number of users and volume of usage, as occasional users become regular users. As a result, the pool of potential new hires will become even smaller because fewer people will be able to test clean. Pennsylvania’s workforce crisis will become more acute.
Manufacturing is not the only sector where employees must be sober and drug-free. Similar restrictions exist in many other fields for similarly incontestable reasons. When people choose to be recreational drug users, they are in many instances rendering themselves unemployable from meaningful work.
People are healthier, more fulfilled emotionally, and better off financially when they have the dignity and purpose that comes from work. Society is richer from having the contributions of our fellow citizens when they are doing something worthwhile, rather than when they are dormant or idle.
We should all want people who are without the dignity of work to be able to achieve employment. By making recreational marijuana use more widespread, fewer people will be employable and all of Pennsylvania will suffer for it.
David N. Taylor
President & CEO