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Making Sense of Marijuana Use: How Do State Laws Affect Your Business?

By ComplyRight –

Law booksMore and more states are permitting marijuana use under certain circumstances. As a result, business owners are questioning how these new guidelines impact their workplaces. Can you have a policy forbidding marijuana use? Can you terminate an employee who tests positive? Let’s consider these and other pressing issues in more detail.

States Legalizing Marijuana

Currently, 33 states have passed laws legalizing marijuana in specific situations. It’s important to note that although these state laws have passed, not all of them have gone into effect.

Most of the legislation allows for limited use of medical marijuana. However, the District of Columbia and 11 states have adopted laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use. These states include:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Washington

What This Means for Your Business

Generally, these state laws have no impact on a worker’s rights on the job. For the most part, you can still administer the drug policy of your choice, including marijuana testing — and discipline or fire employees who fail. Recognize, too, that marijuana is still an illegal drug under federal law. So for that reason, you can typically forbid employees from using cannabis. Likewise, you are not required to permit or accommodate marijuana use and you can discipline employees who violate your workplace drug policy. Read more about conflicting federal and state marijuana laws.

Keep in mind that’s how the legislation stands now. But it could change (and rapidly). We are already seeing some states starting to pass laws restricting pre-employment screenings.

Besides the changing legal landscape around drug testing, employers should also consider how medical marijuana affects responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It wouldn’t be a stretch for an employee to claim discrimination under the ADA if he or she is terminated for medical marijuana use.

Addressing Marijuana Use

If you work in a state that has legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use, one way to approach it is to model your rules after your existing policy on alcohol use. For example, prohibit employees from coming to work under the influence, and spell out the consequences of using marijuana during working hours. And you should discipline employees just the same as coming to work under the influence of alcohol.

Be upfront with job candidates if you test for marijuana as a condition of employment. Inform them that you conduct drug screenings, including marijuana, before hiring. If you conduct random drug testing, let applicants know this, too. It can save you a lot of time, hassle and money if candidates understand your policies before committing to working for you.

If your business is located in a state that has legalized cannabis for recreational use, you can alter your drug screening guidelines to exclude marijuana usage. Many employers opt to do this — particularly if they have trouble finding qualified workers. But again, generally, you can set your own policy and decide if you want to test for marijuana or not.

Get More Policy Guidance

If you don’t have a workplace drug policy, the Company Policies Smart App is a web-based solution that can be accessed from any computer, anywhere. This online tool allows you to create, manage and share attorney-approved policies in minutes. You can use it to develop just a few policies or create an entire employee handbook. And all policies can be customized with your company-specific information.

If you’d like to learn about other trends affecting businesses today, check out our free on demand webinar. You’ll get an insightful overview of the major legal trends every employer should be watching. Just as important, get direction on the best strategies — as well as practical ComplyRight solutions — for reducing risk and keeping your business compliant.

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About ComplyRight: ComplyRight’s mission is to free employers from the burden of tracking and complying with the complex web of federal, state and local employment laws, so they can stay focused on managing and growing their businesses. ComplyRight tracks federal, state and local regulatory activity, creates practical, affordable solutions that streamline essential tasks, and complements these solutions with educational content and actionable guidance. From hiring and training, to time tracking and record-keeping, to labor law posting and tax information reporting, ComplyRight’s innovative products and services address the real-world challenges employers face every day.

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