What comes to mind when you think of marijuana? Teenagers out way past their curfew getting up to no good? College kids with no supervision looking to blow off some steam? You’re likely partially correct, but now more than ever, working adults and average Joes are using marijuana, and they aren’t all breaking the law. Twenty years ago, the thought of legalized marijuana would have made the boardroom shake with laughter, but on April Fools’ Day 2019, the realities of weed and the workplace are no joke!
So what is an HR professional or business owner to do now that marijuana use is both more legal and less taboo than ever before? Here are some facts to keep in mind:
- Sorry smokers, marijuana isn’t legal everywhere…yet. While the federal government still considers marijuana a schedule one narcotic, more than 28 states have either legalized medical and/or recreational marijuana use. If that wasn’t complicated enough, several states have new laws coming down the pipeline. Meaning each state has different rules around who can use and what the makeup of marijuana products can be. Confused? Just wait, there’s more!
- Is drug testing still legal or a thing of the past? Employers want to know who they’re hiring, and there is just some information you can’t get from a well-crafted resume and cover letter. If you’re living in a state where recreational or medical marijuana use is legal, you may want to rethink your drug testing policy. The good news is employers in these states still have the right to drug test applicants and employees (unless a state law prevents testing in the first place). The bad news is that’s where the guidance stops. As if business owners and HR professionals didn’t have enough tough decisions to make, they now get to choose if marijuana will continue to be part of their drug testing panel.
- Good help is hard to find, and marijuana laws make it harder. If you’re living in a state with legalized recreational or medical marijuana, what are the chances your “perfect applicant” tests positive for the drug in a routine screening? If the number is higher than zero, you’ve got a problem on your hands. As an employer, you have the right to pass on these candidates if they fail your screening. But you may also struggle to fill open positions or scare potential applicants away altogether. Our best advice is to know your business, job descriptions, and applicant pool well. There are specific jobs (construction, warehouse work, childcare, transportation, etc.) where the legal pitfalls of marijuana use far outweigh the benefits. On the other hand, more sedentary jobs may be less affected. As HR professionals and business owners, you understand your organization better than anyone. Ultimately, if marijuana use does not mesh with your values or open positions, it may be best to pass.
- Chill out, it’s just medicine. Medical marijuana has been around for years, but recently even the most conservative states have adopted policies around the sale and use of medical marijuana. It’s not uncommon for adults of all ages to head to the doctor’s office with a headache and leave with a prescription for medical marijuana and a very relaxed evening. With more employees using medical marijuana than ever before, what guidance does the ADA have for employers looking to maintain professionalism without harshing the vibe? To date, federal ADA guidance does not force employers to consider medical marijuana use a reasonable accommodation, but of course, every state is different. It’s best to brush up on state ADA guidelines before making a decision either way!
Marijuana and the workplace clear as mud, right?! Remember, federal and state laws are constantly in flux, so what’s illegal today could be good to go tomorrow! If you’re struggling to understand marijuana laws in your state or need a little policy advice around the country’s most controversial plant, we’ve got you covered.