Is Your Company’s Drug Policy Going to Pot?

Evan Rodd,

During the 2012 election, voters in Colorado and Washington were faced with an interesting decision: Should recreational marijuana use be legal?

Many states continue to legalize medical marijuana, while others are considering similar measures for recreational use. Currently, 18 states have laws regarding the legal consumption of marijuana.

There are many arguments for, and against the controversial legislation. A huge spike to the local economy, and funds for education and treatment programs from taxes collected are some of the pros. Cons include increase in use, and, despite strict laws regarding use, potential safety hazards such as driving under the influence. Despite how your state feels, marijuana is still considered a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law.

This could present a tricky situation for employers, but federal and state courts have clearly stated that companies are still able to enforce drug policies that prohibit the use of marijuana. Even before the legalization of recreation use, the same applied to employees who are medical patients.

Recently, a Walmart employee in Michigan was fired after testing positive for marijuana, despite being registered as a medical patient for cancer-related complications. The courts sided with Walmart, who had a clear zero tolerance in effect. Similar cases have occurred in other states, but the court was always on the employer’s side. In short, federal law trumps state law, and employers are able to take this into consideration when drafting their policies on drugs and alcohol.

Courts have also ruled that the Americans with Disabilities act will not protect medical marijuana patients. A patient may be disabled, but this is another instance where federal law trumps state jurisdiction.

So, how can you prevent your office from turning into a Cheech and Chong movie? Update your drug policies, and clarify that marijuana use for state regulated recreational, or medicinal use is still against the rules. Provide clear rules and expectations so employees are given a firm understanding. Also state that, as before, employees are not allowed to come to work under the influence of alcohol or drugs at any time. Make it clear that despite state law, your company has the legal right to implement policies regarding the use of alcohol and drugs.

What are the 18 states that currently have laws regarding recreational, and medicinal marijuana use? has provided us with a list. 

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington
What do you think? How should employers address drug and alcohol policies as laws change?



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