Weed at Work

In 1996, California became the first state in America to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. Now, more than 20 years later, medical marijuana is legal in 29 states (and the District of Columbia); recreational marijuana use is legal in 9 states (and the District of Columbia); and 17 states have policy for use of CBD (a cannabis compound that has significant medical benefits, but does not get you “high”.) This national trend, coupled with the increase in publicly-traded marijuana stocks on NASDAQ and NYSE, one can safely say, more states are expected to follow suit in the years ahead. This national trend towards legalizing marijuana reflects a shift in the mindset of the general public, but not necessarily a shift in the federal laws. Although a growing number of states have legalized marijuana, it is still not legal at the federal level. This means, the 29 states noted above are now in direct conflict with the federal government! As more states legalize marijuana (medicinal and recreational use), it is expected that individual jurisdictions within each state will also begin to differ on the application of their own state’s laws on marijuana use – further creating local, state, and federal conflict on the topic. As the laws evolve, balancing local/state/federal legislation will place employers in a precarious position as well. One where employers and HR professionals are left to discern which set of laws to follow, and how best to protect the health and safety of employees AND the business or institution itself. Human Resources professionals can look to a select number other states and countries for guidance.

In preparation for what has been dubbed “The GREEN Rush”, I would suggest employers brushing up on marijuana’s legal status in their own state. Make an effort to prepare for the changing marijuana landscape and its impact on your workplace. All of us who are (or will be) in the workforce may want to consider:

    What is my state’s position on medical marijuana? Recreational marijuana? Use of CBD?

o   What is MY position on medical marijuana? And how can I avoid being biased?

o   What is the difference between states who “legalizing” marijuana vs states who have “decriminalizing” marijuana?

    Will my employer be able to accommodate medical marijuana?

o   Will/does my employer’s policy on marijuana align with the state laws?

o   How will the background checks/drug screening processes be altered?

o   Does my state provide employment protection for medical marijuana users?

o   Will my employer allow use of marijuana in the workplace, or on the employers’ premises? What will be the rules for on-the-job intoxication?

o   How will “high-risk” occupations manage an employee with a prescription for medical marijuana?

o   What level of training(s) will be required to mitigate risk of wrongful termination or discrimination claims?

o   If we have multiple locations, and/or employees from other states, how do we apply the appropriate rules?

o   Which areas of work can I anticipate will be impacted? (These include everything from your policies and procedures, to your employee assistance programs, family leave, and, most important of all, workplace safety.)


Nakia T. TownsendComment