Staffing Resources

Does Your Company Need to Update Its Marijuana Policy?

May 5th, 2017

The legalization of marijuana has been quite controversial for the past several years. To date, the use of marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Even so, 28 states have legalized it for medicinal use and 8 states for recreational use. Whether your company is in one of those states or not, the question of workplace policy is one that will likely come up at some point. What are the legal rights of your employees regarding marijuana use and drug testing? Does your company need an update on its marijuana/drug use policy?

Legally Speaking

The first things many employers will want to know is: is it illegal to drug-test for marijuana in states where the drug is legal? No. Since marijuana is still illegal under federal law, companies are not obligated to allow the use of it among their employees.

A bigger question, one that might get overlooked, is: do your employees know what your marijuana policy is? Your employee handbook and employment contracts should be very clear about what is expected. Some workers will assume that if marijuana has been legalized, it will be exempt from drug screenings.

Should Companies Allow Cannabis Use?

There are definitely two sides to this question. In Colorado, only 62 percent of employers still do pre-employment drug screening (Source: KRDO). However, for at least six states marijuana users have no employment protection, meaning that companies still can – and do – fire employees who have used cannabis while off-duty.

Often times, the industry of the company decides their stance on drug use. Transportation companies, most notably, tend to have zero-tolerance policies for their drivers. Medical offices similarly tend to stick to traditional drug-testing policies. On the other hand, tech companies, who thrive on younger and often-times more liberal employees, may have a hard time hiring if they ban marijuana use.

At the end of the day, all employers should take time to consider their marijuana policy carefully. Make sure that, whatever your decision is, your employees and new hires understand what is expected of them. And make sure to keep up-to-date on local and federal legislation changes, so that you don’t get stuck in a lawsuit down the road.

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