Legalized Marijuana: What does it mean from an employment standpoint?

Legalized Marijuana: What does it mean from an employment standpoint?

There are two very distinct groups that contact Occupational Health about this topic, and surprisingly both ask the very same question.  Whether it is an employer or a prospective employee, a common question comes up:  “What does this mean for me?”  It seems that each group is preparing for considerable changes in the way companies will address the upcoming July 1st marijuana legalization. 

The fact of the matter is Measure 91 did not contain any language that requires an employer to allow marijuana use, nor does it provide protection of employment for an employee who chooses to use this substance.  Current employer drug-free workplace policies can potentially still be utilized, but because of the way marijuana is metabolized in the body, minor adjustments that add “impairment” or “under the influence” will assure clarity to a company’s existing policy.  An employee or prospective employee may have a positive drug screen and could argue that they were not impaired or under the influence at the time of the test.  The test isn’t detecting how much a person is “impaired” but rather if there is presence of a substance that is in violation of the companies policy.  Individuals may choose to use marijuana in their off-duty time, but need to be aware that since it is still federally illegal, they may be in violation of their company policy that prohibits use.

What do employers need to do prior to July 1, 2015

  • Review your policy, make any necessary changes, have it reviewed by your legal counsel, and then follow it consistently.
  • Engage in transparent, candid conversations with existing and prospective employees about the drug screening policy that you have in place.
  • Become educated about what drug use policy enforcement rights an employer has.
  • Arrange for managers and other leaders in key decision-making positions to take a class on best practices for reasonable suspicion and drug use recognition.  (This training is provided by Cascade’s DIRECTION for Employee Assistance – please call 541-345-2800 for additional details.)

What do employees need to know prior to July 1, 2015

  • Learn what your employer’s policies are so that the decisions you make are informed and educated.
  • Understand the new law and the potential impact.
  • Take extra care to be sure you are getting your information from trusted sources.  Many web sites that discuss various aspects of this law may not be completely accurate.
  •  When in doubt, ask.

In closing, the best advice I could give anyone that is asking questions about this topic is to continue to gather information as we make our way closer to the date of implementation.  Additional opportunities for clarification and interpretation will certainly be presenting themselves as the summer months approach.