Voters in two states have approved the legalization of small amounts of recreational marijuana. Also, 17 states and the District of Columbia now allow medical pot. Does this require changes in companies’ workplace drug policies?
In a few words, most likely, no.
There are two reasons:
- The new laws specifically say that companies can still have certain drug-use policies for their employees, and
- Federal law still prohibits any possession of marijuana.
Colorado’s new law says the following:
“Nothing in this Section is intended to require an employer to permit or to accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale or growing of marijuana in the workplace or to affect the ability of employers to have policies restricting the use of marijuana by employees.”
In other words, if an employer in Colorado has a zero-tolerance drug policy, it can refuse to hire an applicant or it can fire a current employee for using pot.
Employment attorney Mike Subit, who argued a medical marijuana case before the Washington Supreme Court, says under that state’s new law, workers aren’t protected from being fired for using pot.
A Seattle TV station checked in with some large employers in the state to see if the law would change their employee drug policies:
- Boeing, which has federal contracts, said use of marijuana by its employees is still prohibited regardless of state law, and
- Costco says nothing will change; its drug testing requirement for being hired will continue.
Regarding states with medical marijuana laws, the highest courts in California, Montana, Oregon and Washington have ruled that employers don’t have to accommodate medical pot use.
The Secretary of the Commonwealth in Massachusetts says its new medical marijuana law won’t require employers to accommodate use by employees.
Even with such reassurances for employers, the questions surrounding Colorado’s and Washington’s new marijuana legalization laws may become moot. The federal government may prohibit the state laws from going into effect at all.
What are your thoughts on the legalization of marijuana, particularly how it affects the workplace? Let us know in the comments below.