Rhode Island has joined the growing list of states legalizing recreational marijuana and while employers aren’t required to accommodate use of the drug at work they’re prohibited from taking adverse action for off-duty use.
Governor Dan McKee signed a bill making recreational marijuana use legal in the state on May 25, with the new law taking effect immediately.
This means adults 21 and older can now:
- possess up to an ounce of cannabis
- grow cannabis within their primary residence (to a certain limit), and
- possess up to 10 ounces of cannabis in their homes in addition to live plants.
Employers aren’t required to accommodate an employee’s use or possession of marijuana, according to law firm Jackson Lewis. Employers can also terminate, discipline or refuse to hire workers based on an individual’s violation of a workplace drug policy or if an individual was working under the influence of cannabis.
No negative action for use outside of work, with some exceptions
However, negative employment action can’t be taken against an employee “solely for an employee’s private, lawful use of cannabis outside the workplace and so long as the employee has not and is not working under the influence of cannabis.”
There are exceptions to this, including if:
- off-duty use is prohibited by the terms of a collective bargaining agreement
- the employer is a federal contractor or otherwise subject to a federal law or regulation so that failure to discipline an employee would cause the employer loss of a monetary or licensing benefit under the law, or
- an employee works in a profession that is “hazardous, dangerous or essential to public welfare and safety.”
If an employee falls under the hazardous profession category, the employer may adopt policies prohibiting the use of cannabis within the 24-hour period prior to a scheduled work shift.
Some examples of work that falls under this exception include:
- operation of an aircraft or watercraft
- operation of heavy equipment or machinery
- operation of commercial vehicles, school buses or public transportation
- use of explosives
- public safety first responder jobs, and
- emergency and surgical medical personnel.
Obviously, drivers of commercial motor vehicles who fall under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s drug and alcohol testing regulations aren’t allowed to use marijuana at all and will be disqualified from driving for a positive test.