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

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.

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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

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

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
  • 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


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