Field Guide to Marijuana and the Workplace

clockSince the November election, we have been keeping a close eye on the legal status of medical and recreational-use marijuana. With many states approving the medical use of cannabis, and Colorado and Washington paving the way for recreational use, we can’t help but wonder what steps lawmakers will take to regulate this use. Today we take a look at how the legalization of marijuana affects the workplace. What rights do employees have when it comes to medicating during work hours? What rules can employers try to enforce? Here is your field guide for navigating the haze surrounding marijuana use and your nine-to-five.

The Laws To Date For Recreational-Use States:
Colorado Law:
Amendment 64 basically states that employers are free to regulate their employees’ “use,CO consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale or growing of marijuana” however they want. They are not required to permit recreational use and they can restrict it according to their own company policies. As employees, it’s important to realize that company policies on this matter can vary. If you’re concerned about whether or not enjoying marijuana recreationally is kosher with your company, make sure to check the policies and stay up to date on any changes that will be made in the future.

Washington Law:
WAThe verbiage of Washington’s law overall avoids requiring employers to take any action or to permit any conduct in the workplace.  It also does not affect any aspect of Washington’s existing Medical Use of Marijuana Act, which, according to the Washington Supreme Court, does not make employment protections for applicants/employees. So, similar to Colorado, employers can enforce drug policies however they choose and as an employee, you should make sure you know where your company stands.

Main Employee/Employer Protections Under Medical Marijuana Laws:
According to Connecticut’s medical marijuana laws, which reflect the same regulations asemployees other states that have legalized marijuana for medical use, employees who are registered patients or caregivers are protected from hiring discrimination. You are also protected from being fired or threatened solely based on your status as a qualified patient or caregiver.

Connecticut and other states also keep employers from presuming “that a drug test result that is positive for marijuana means that the employee used at work or was under the influence at work.”

However, employers have the right to prohibit the use of “intoxicating substances, including medicinal marijuana, during work hours,” and can discipline employees for being under the influence at work. These laws also tend to agree that “an employer may discriminate against an employee or applicant user of medical marijuana if required by federal funding or contracting provisions.”

Key Considerations for Employees

  • These laws are constantly changing. Make sure you are on the same page as your employer when it comes to your marijuana usage, both medical and recreational. Stay up to date on any changes your company may introduce to its drug and alcohol policies.
  • Marijuana is still illegal across the board under federal law. Employers can discriminate against employees in federally funded and contracted positions.
  • However, in many states where marijuana is legal, employees are protected from discrimination based on their patient or caregiver status.

If you’re looking for more information about how marijuana regulation affects you as an employee, contact us today. We’re also interested in hearing stories about your experiences with this topic – comment below or send us an email.

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