As more states and cities legalize marijuana and relax restrictions, the substance continues to be a tricky issue for employers who want to keep it out of the workplace.
And with the start of a new year comes a new crop of updated marijuana laws you’ll need to be aware of when crafting your drug policies.
Where’s it legal?
Before we get into the updates, here’s the running list of states that have legalized recreational marijuana:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- Virginia, and
In addition to this, medical marijuana is legal in most states. These laws have a lot of employers wondering if they can deny an applicant or fire an employee who tests positive for marijuana use, and the legal answer is, it depends.
Here’s a closer look at some of these laws.
Some state laws specifically add protections for employees who use marijuana. For example, in New Jersey and New York, employers can’t discriminate against or refuse to hire people who test positive for marijuana use.
Employers can only take action against an employee who is under the influence of marijuana while at work. The possession or sale of marijuana in the workplace can also be prohibited.
There are also exceptions to protections like these. For example, you could require employees in safety-sensitive jobs, like those requiring a commercial driver’s license or the supervision of children, to test negative for marijuana in order to keep their jobs.
Policies going forward
So what does this mean for employers? Here’s what employment law attorney Jennifer Mora of the firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP foresees.
Mora thinks even more strides will be made in the legalization of marijuana in 2022, so employers will have to remain vigilant.
Even if your state hasn’t yet legalized marijuana, it’s a good idea to reevaluate your company’s stance on the substance. Having guidelines that are too strict could be costing you talent in this tight labor market.
Some things to ask yourself: Should your company test for marijuana? And what should the consequences be for a positive test? Employers should also consider training managers to spot signs of employees working under the influence of marijuana and document it.
Another good policy to have in place is how to address accommodation requests for medical marijuana use, as this issue is cropping up more and more in courts.