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Marijuana in the Workplace: How to stay current in the world of “Legalization”

by | Aug 17, 2018 | Drug Screening

In recent years there have been 9 states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use, including the District of Columbia. When we add the legalization for medical use by way of prescribed cannabis that number goes to 29. However, just because the substance is legal does not mean that the laws have all stayed the same. When you incorporate a new legal “drug” into the legal system you can cause changes in a variety of different categories, including policies that you may put in place as a business owner pertaining to the legal use of medical marijuana.

In some states where it is now legal to purchase marijuana for personal use there have already been missteps taken by employers where employees have been fired and then re-hired due to a misunderstanding of the new laws, as reported by NBCNews.com. This gives us example that it is imperative for companies to make sure that they have drug policy processes and procedures in place that have both the company and employees best interest in place, and that these policies are communicated and understood.

However, even though there are some states that have legalized marijuana for personal use this does not mean that the substance is without risk. Under federal law, marijuana is still classified by the FDA as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Heather R Huhman, of entrepreneur.com quoted Earle Miller, aa counsel in employment law at White and Case in Los Angeles, as saying “Federal law applies everywhere in the U.S., including in those states that permit recreational or medical use of marijuana under state law,” Human further quoted Miller as explaining in an email “There aren’t really any states where marijuana is fully legal in the same way that tobacco is legal.”

Because of these new laws across our nation, some employees may think that participating in work activities or tasks while under the influence of marijuana is acceptable. This is where having a clearly communicated Drug-Free Workplace policy in place can keep employers safe by making sure they include specific wording regarding marijuana much as you would alcohol and other illegal substances. The good news for employers is that, as reported by Bob Salsberg of The Associated Press, “All the states with legalized recreational pot have exemptions for workplace drug policies.” This means that you, as an employer have the right to continue to screen employees for marijuana at any time you may feel it is necessary, and to prohibit the use of marijuana at anytime that it may interfere with job performance or interactions.

When it comes to legalized marijuana for employees in states where the substance is legal there will be many questions regarding how and when they could get fired, even if they are not using the drug on premises or during work hours. Firing an employee who tests positive for marijuana due to recreational use outside of work hours or functions can be a tricky road to navigate, and there are many testing methods that are being developed to narrow down usage timelines. One such method being developed is the marijuana breathalyzer. Kathi Valeii of Rolling Stone Magazine reports “In breath, researchers found that they could measure THC in picograms (parts per trillion) – that’s 1,000 times smaller than the nanograms measured in fluids. “A picogram is a trillionth of a gram,” says Joe Heanue, CEO, and co-founder of Triple Ring Technologies, a strategic partner of Hound Labs, a THC Breathalyzer developer out of California. “The way to think about that is a raisin weighs about a gram, so picture taking a raisin and cutting it in a trillion parts and trying to detect one of them… That gives you an idea of the kind of challenge we’re facing in these devices.”

So you see, within this emerging legal shift there are still many unknowns, but rest assured that steps are being taken to make sure that both employees and employers are well equipped with the knowledge and products that can ensure a healthy and productive working environment.

Here at Unique Background Solutions, we strive to stay up to date with the latest in developing products and services that can help further your confidence that you are able to make the best decisions when hiring or working with current employees to ensure a positive working environment.

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