Cannabis Legalization and Workplace Drug Policies

Cannabis at Work: How Employers Are Reacting to the Legalization of Marijuana

Although marijuana stays a federally unlawful substance, the variety of states that permit its use is proliferating. Presently, 10 states plus Washington, D.C., have legalized the growing, belongings and usage of marijuana, while 33 states have actually legislated some type of a medical marijuana program. These policy advancements have actually developed a brand-new challenge for companies who need drug testing either as part of the employee onboarding process or periodically.

Naturally, employers have a financial interest in ensuring that workers are not coming to work intoxicated, but cannabis use off the clock would result in a stopped working drug test. Are companies reacting to the shift in state laws by unwinding their drug policies to permit staff member consumption outside the boundaries of the work environment? Or are they keeping the same rules in location for fear of on-shift marijuana use?

In 20 years, marijuana legalization has actually gone from a fringe problem to a nationwide conversation. In the 1990s, just 5 states plus Washington, D.C., had a legal medical cannabis program. That number slowly sneaked up to 8 states plus D.C. after the turn of the 20th century, yet legalized adult usage (frequently described as leisure use) remained unheard of.

It wasn’t up until 2012, when Colorado citizens passed Change 64, that adult-use cannabis was legalized for the very first time. In the previous seven years, nine more states plus D.C. have actually legislated adult-use marijuana. Much of this activity took place through referendum, however Vermont ended up being the first state to legislate cannabis through the legislature. Today, numerous states are considering doing the same, including New york city and New Jersey.

In the very same timeframe, the number of states with medical cannabis programs has actually grown to 33. While cannabis remains an unlawful substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act, the federal government has actually mainly taken a states-first approach to controling and imposing the brand-new marijuana industry that has grown as a result of the changing laws. Some federal lawmakers have even introduced legislation in support of the market or that calls for straight-out legalization nationwide.

These fast modifications have actually left many companies in a precarious position. Lots of employers keep zero-tolerance policies on substance abuse and, naturally, do not desire their workers appearing to work inebriated. The legality of cannabis is not the problem; certainly, workers drinking on the task is premises for termination in any company, regardless of alcohol’s legal status. However, identifying whether a worker is using cannabis on the task or by themselves time is a bit harder, said Matt C. Pinsker, an adjunct professor of homeland security and criminal justice at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs of Virginia Commonwealth University.

“For companies, a key issue involving marijuana is not legalization but workplace safety,” stated Pinsker, who is likewise a criminal defense lawyer. “The problem for employers is that problems due to the fact that of cannabis is usually much more tough to spot and test for than alcohol. Unlike alcohol, it is extremely tough for companies to figure out if a positive drug test for marijuana is the result of drug use throughout work or on non-work hours, so it is logistically easier to simply have a straight-out ban.”

In some cases, state law makes work environment drug policy a bit more complex than an easy blanket ban of cannabis use.

There is a substantial distinction in between adult-use marijuana, which is a leisurely activity of choice, and medical marijuana, which is prescribed as a medicine to patients who have a range of conditions described under state laws. Some states bring that difference into the work environment, and it can impact the influence employers have when crafting their drug policies.

“Companies must understand their rights and tasks when it concerns drug screening, because state laws are evolving,” said David Reischer, lawyer and CEO of “Marijuana is still federally illegal, and employers typically are allowed to have a drug-free office and to implement zero-tolerance

policies.” It’s crucial to understand whether any of your employees are medical marijuana clients and if your state’s laws secure their use of marijuana in the workplace or against the failure of employer-mandated drug tests, Reischer added.

“A business needs to be mindful when disciplining medical cannabis users,” he said. “Numerous states have particular laws securing medical cannabis patients from employment discrimination. Generally, companies can need drug testing prior to work and at random times so long as there is no discrimination against medical marijuana users [who] are legally permitted cannabis for medical factors.”

Further muddying work environment drug policies is the question of employee morale. Numerous staff members argue that legal use of marijuana off the clock must not be premises for their termination if they stop working an employer drug test. Companies require to bear in mind the mindset of their workforce when making disciplinary choices associated with drug screening.

How are employers responding to the modification in laws and attitudes? There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Some employers are maintaining tight limitations and zero-tolerance policies, even for off-the-clock cannabis consumption. Others are relaxing their policies and just disciplining employees for stopped working drug tests when it’s clear their productivity has actually been adversely affected. Some companies are even permitting staff members to openly take in marijuana on the clock.

According to Derek Riedle, owner of cannabis lifestyle company Civilized, the continuous federal prohibition of marijuana has prompted lots of companies to maintain strict office drug policies, often even for medical marijuana clients.

“We’re seeing a growing number of employers review their workplace guidelines around cannabis, however since it remains illegal at a federal level in the U.S., a lot of business still have a zero-tolerance policy,” Riedle said. “It’s more common to see employers chill out their regulations for clients with a legitimate medical cannabis card, however even that is not guaranteed.”

In his marijuana lifestyle business, Riedle allows employees to periodically step away for an usage break, specifically if it prompts a burst of creativity. Other companies, nevertheless, have concerns surrounding cannabis intake as it associates with staff member efficiency and have actually enforced their policies accordingly.

“As an employer, I have no plans to unwind any drug policies in and around my work environment as we progress in this new age of cannabis tolerance and legality,” stated Abtin Hashemian, owner of a Los Angeles-based Subway franchise. “[ Versus] the backdrop of legalization in California, I have actually needed to terminate employment for several of our workers due to performance-related concerns stemming from cannabis intoxication while on the clock.”

Hashemian stated his franchise’s high efficiency and results-oriented culture is essential to him, so he feels obliged to act when performance is impacted. He also stated that he is particular lots of well-performing employees likewise consume marijuana off the clock and that he is ultimately indifferent to it so long as their work stays up to par. When it pertains to medical clients, he included that companies should always speak with an attorney to identify the very best technique.

One company we spoke with stated it benefits his company to allow workers to consume cannabis not just on the clock, however in the workplace itself. iBAKE Denver is a cannabis club, an establishment where it is legal to take in cannabis and there are no cannabis items for sale. Owner Steve Nelson Jr., known to employees and consumers as Thurlow Weed, said his organisation’s distinct design lends itself well to enabling workers to consume onsite.

“We’ve observed that when we hire staff members that do not smoke, our members get a little anxious [and question] why,” Nelson said. “We likewise have found that, for most staff members, it does not affect their work.”

Nelson said employee intake helps his brand-building efforts as an adult-use usage club, and likewise assists to develop a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere for guests. He added, enabling consumption on the clock is clearly not best for everyone, specifically services that are not in the cannabis industry.

“It’s not for all organisations, or for all workers,” he stated.” [Companies] require to take mindful factor to consider to what … your staff member will be doing. Some jobs are not OK to perform while high.”

The states are frequently described as laboratories of democracy, and we have actually seen this kind of trial-and-error method in marijuana legalization as each state constructs on the experiences of its leaders. As marijuana legalization ends up being stabilized and more widespread, employers will also have to try out different techniques that suit their market, brand and office culture.

Much as with other workplace policies, there is no right or incorrect response. The very best method will be various for each company and, eventually, is whatever plan guarantees office security, productivity and high employee morale. As the marijuana legalization debate moves from the states to the halls of Congress, work environment drug policy on marijuana is something more companies must start believing about.

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