LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Choosing between health & a paycheck

Published 12:30 am Saturday, October 15, 2022

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Recent headlines all highlight President Biden’s plans to ease federal penalties on possession of small amounts of marijuana and his calling on state officials to waive convictions of local offenders. However, there is little or no conversation about the unintended consequences of possible marijuana and secondhand marijuana smoke in the workplace. No matter what position anyone takes on legalizing marijuana or decriminalizing its possession, the fact remains in many parts of Louisiana, it is still legal to smoke tobacco products in various workplaces, namely bars and casinos. Is marijuana next?
Numerous scientific studies and the Surgeon General tell us that secondhand tobacco smoke is dangerous and can be a killer. Studies on the long-term effects of marijuana smoke are often inconclusive given the fact that marijuana is illegal under federal law. Louisiana’s statewide smokefree workplace law went into effect in 2007. It covers both tobacco and “combustible plant material” (marijuana) products but also allowed for numerous exemptions and loopholes. Fortunately, it also allowed local governments to pass stricter laws protecting all workers and customers of all workplaces. So far, more than 30 municipalities including New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport, have all passed more comprehensive smokefree workplace laws. Still, thousands of workers earn their paychecks in smoke-filled working environments.
The obvious question is, “How will we handle marijuana in the workplace?” A simple solution is to eliminate the loopholes in our statewide Smokefree Air Act and make sure marijuana, all tobacco products, electronic products, and vaping materials are ALL included. Secondhand smoke, of all kinds, can be deadly. All Louisiana workers should be protected and should not have to make a choice between their health and a paycheck.


Randy Hayden

Baton Rouge