Does Marijuana Use Affect Productivity?

Does Marijuana Use Affect Productivity?

Published on 2/9/21

The stereotype has been around for years. The "pothead" or "stoner" is a lazy loser who will never get his or her act together and will be an unsuccessful leach on society. Thankfully, as society migrates to a more tolerant place in terms of cannabis acceptance and legalization, that cliche is being retired to the annals of folklore. Does weed make you lazy? No. Can it? Of course. But, cannabis use does not necessarily contribute to lethargy and there is increasing evidence that the idea of using marijuana for productivity is not without merit.

Cannabis and the Body


When weed enters the body it links with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and its two cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). The ECS regulates several bodily functions and is constantly working to maintain the body's internal balance by managing the cannabinoids produced naturally throughout the body.  Endocannabinoid receptors (lipid-based neurotransmitters) bind with endocannabinoids and enzymes that help the body break down cannabinoids. The ECS manages things like motor skills, memory, pain, digestion and immune functions. 

When the cannabinoids in marijuana, like THC and CBD, attach to the receptors in the ECS, the body's normal operating rhythm is disrupted and changes occur. The brain releases dopamine that usually prompts the "high" that comes with cannabis intoxication. When marijuana hits the ECS, changes in mood, enhanced sensory perception and an increase in appetite are common. Depending on the type of cannabis, a person might feel extremely relaxed (the origin of the stoner stereotype) or energized. 

Marijuana's Effect on Productivity


Researchers at San Diego State University and Auburn University recently completed a study that examined, "the effects of different types of cannabis use (before, during and after hours) on work performance, especially as it relates to core job requirements, helping colleagues or their organizations, and counterproductive behavior in the workplace." Dr. Jeremy Bernerth and H. Jack Walker enlisted 281 employees and their direct supervisors in their quest to answer the question: Does marijuana affect productivity? 

The results of the study were expected to some degree. The marijuana impact on work performance was tangible. People who used marijuana before and during their time in the office suffered a marked decline in their productivity. This is not surprising due to the wealth of evidence that shows that marijuana use can affect memory and attention span. What might be surprising to some is that Bernerth and Walker found no correlation between using cannabis after work and job performance and productivity. Workers who used weed after their time on the job suffered no setback in productivity levels when they returned the following day. Surprisingly, the researchers didn't stop there. They also suggested, anecdotally of course, that using cannabis after work might actually provide benefits for the employees and supervisors. According to Bernerth, "Individuals deciding to consume cannabis after finishing their work may be able to distract themselves from stressful on-the-job issues. 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."

Microdosing Marijuana at Work


The study made it clear that getting high before heading to the office might not be the best idea if you want to be productive and get work done. It did not, however, indicate how much marijuana the subjects who were observed took either before, during or after work. That brings us to micro-dosing. Is it possible to get the benefits of cannabis while avoiding the psychoactive effects that curb productivity? There are indications that low-level cannabinoid intake can be beneficial for medical issues and small amounts of THC can reduce stress, so it's possible that micro-dosing at work might provide a greater focus and clarity that would assist with productivity. 

Let's go back to that study for a minute. If smoking weed after work is proven to have no effects on work productivity and performance, is it fair for private companies and governmental agencies to test for and punish employees for cannabis use? Drinking after work (and drinking heavily in particular) has been proven to negatively affect not only productivity, but several other aspects of office behavior and integration. As additional studies are published the next step in drug testing might be the elimination of cannabis from the list of prohibited narcotics that employees can enjoy after hours.

Have you ever consumed cannabis at work? Was it helpful or just a bad idea?  What about micro-dosing? Take a second to share in the comments section below.

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