June 8, 2015

medical marijuana in the workplace, us marijuana lawsThe legalization of marijuana for medical or recreational use is a legal trend that is sweeping the country. Do you know how these marijuana laws impact you and your employees?

Almost 50% of states have some law legalizing medical usage, and as of early 2015, four states have legalized it for recreational use (Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska). If your state is not on either list yet, do not be surprised if this occurs in the near future.

This trainer will cover the general landscape of these laws as they apply to the workplace, but it is important for you to check the laws in your state for more specific information. CEDR Solution Center experts are happy to inform you about any special state rules, so call us today to ensure your policies and practices are in compliance.

First, only some states that decriminalize the authorized use of medical marijuana also provide employees with protections in the workplace. In these states (currently AZ, ME, RI, DE, CT, NY, and MN), employers are prohibited from discriminating against a known authorized user in hiring, termination, or any other terms and conditions of employment. This means that if you know one of your employees is an authorized user, you may not fire them based on this fact alone.

Other states, however, have no employment protection whatsoever. This theoretically means that if you have an anti-drug policy, and they test positive for marijuana use, they could legally be fired at-will. However, employers in all states should be cautious when terminating any employee with a chronic medical condition.

All states provide protections for you as an employer, to the effect that employers do not have to accommodate medical marijuana usage while employees are on the clock. This means you do not ever have to tolerate employees who are impaired on the job.

The tricky part is when you do suspect an employee is under the influence while at work. Unlike alcohol and other types of drug testing, no marijuana test is able to test current impairment. Thus, the evidence of current impairment is often the observations of management. Because of this, and as with any other drug use, it becomes imperative that employers note all observable indications of impairment, such as: red eyes, slowed reaction time, impaired motor coordination, slurred speech, incoherence, a perceived difficulty concentrating or dreamlike state, impaired memory, paranoia or anxiety, increased appetite or strange snacking habits (OK, we put snacking habits in there to see if you were paying attention!), and the like.

Good documentation will greatly support any decision to terminate or discipline an employee if challenged down the road.

Further, what employers can do with the results of any drug test is still being resolved by courts around the country. Before taking any action against an employee who is an authorized medical marijuana user, it is critical to seek the counsel of an employment law expert so you can assess your risks and analyze the legal landscape in your state at the time.

As an employer, the best protection you can have when facing new medical marijuana laws is to establish clearly written on-duty usage prohibition policies in your employee handbook. CEDR provides expert-drafted medical marijuana policies that are customized specifically for your state’s laws.

Get your policy in place today! One of our in-house HR experts will be happy to help. Just call (866) 414-6056 or submit your question to info@cedrsolutions.com.

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.