How Will Legalized, Recreational Marijuana Effect Your Drug Policies?

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on November 10, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Trump presidency won't be the only major change to emerge from last Tuesday's election. In California, Massachusetts, Nevada, and possibly Maine, a majority of voters pulled the lever for legalized, recreational marijuana. Now, more than 20 percent of the country lives in a state that allows, or will soon allow, recreational marijuana. (This probably isn't what Michelle Obama meant when she declared "When they go low, we go high.")

What do these new laws mean for your company's drug policy?

Voting for the "Green Party"

The marijuana legalization measures passed with strong majorities in California, Massachusetts, and Nevada, and may have squeaked through by a razor-thin margin in Maine. (A similar measure failed in Arizona.) But these electoral successes don't mean you need to toss you company's drug policy out of the window.

Why? Because the laws say so. California's Proposition 64, for example, declares that legalization shall not be interpreted to impact the "rights and obligations of public and private employers to maintain a drug and alcohol free workplace" or to "require an employer to permit or accommodate the use" of marijuana, or to impact workplace drug policies for employees and perspective employees.

Nearly identical language is found in Massachusetts's marijuana legalization statute, Maine's new legalization legislation, and Nevada's Question 2.

Marijuana in the Workplace

The new marijuana legalization initiatives decriminalize adult use of marijuana, but they don't impose new requirements on employers, nor do they open up the door for your employees to "toke, toke, pass" on the job. And employers should remember that marijuana remains illegal under federal law, though the federal government has decided to take a hands-off approach to state legalization measures, for now.

Still, the laws do change the marijuana landscape and could result to increased marijuana use in the workforce. Companies would be smart to review their existing company drug policy with workers in states that have legalized. Remind employees what the current policy is and how, if at all, it may be effected by legalization.

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