Do you live in a legalized state? If so, it’s time to consider the impacts of a workplace marijuana policy. It’s nitty-gritty legal stuff, but it’s also important, especially considering the differences between state and federal law. Without a workplace policy, these contradictions could cause both employers and employees much uncertainty.
Ultimately, neither side want the feds peering in on procedures, which is why it’s vital for every workplace to have a clear stance on cannabis. For example, if an employee in a legalized state is using marijuana for medical purposes, it’s an employer’s duty to clarify what’s allowed in the workplace, and what isn’t.
A workplace marijuana policy offers protection to both parties
Uncertainty on rules surrounding medical and recreational marijuana use can cause a company serious legal issues. Attitudes toward cannabis are changing quickly, but it’d be wrong to assume everyone is moving with the times.
Consider the following situation: an employee is found to be in possession of cannabis at work to the disgruntlement of their employer. Despite being in a legalized state, the employer then proclaims a no tolerance stance to cannabis at work. The employee then argues they didn’t realize because the company doesn’t have an official workplace marijuana policy. What happens next? Who knows. All that’s certain is a legal quagmire.
As of 2018, nine states have legalized recreational marijuana and more than half of the US has legalized medical marijuana – those numbers are only going to increase in the coming years. With cannabis going mainstream, the prospect of employees arriving at work under the influence or in possession of the herb is only going to rise. Without a firm stance, either pro or anti-marijuana, confusion over what’s acceptable and what isn’t is inevitable.
Currently, around 50 percent of American small businesses are without a workplace cannabis policy, and one in 10 have had incidents where employees have turned up to work high.
Companies should avoid attracting federal scrutiny
We all know that the federal government has no time for marijuana, and their opposition looks set to strengthen further with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ latest crackdown. It benefits neither the employer nor employee to have the feds scrutinizing the contractual agreement between the two.
According to Carothers DiSante & Freudenberger attorney, Todd Wulffson, if there’s a workplace incident attributed to marijuana use, then the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have grounds to step in. Hence Wulffson argues that all businesses should have policies on drugs and alcohol. A federal administration, the OSHA’s stance will always supersede state law.
Legalized states arguably have a duty to require businesses to set a marijuana workplace policy to avoid these unnecessary legal hassles.
Should CBD-only cannabis be treated differently?
Many medical marijuana patients will only be consuming CBD cannabis – in other words, cannabis that doesn’t make you high since there’s no THC. Indeed, some states with more basic medical marijuana programs have only legalized CBD-only cannabis, with the strictest of those states only permitting CBD oils and not marijuana flowers.
Even in the marijuana hub of Colorado, employees have lost cases on cannabis in the workplace in the courts. A notable case was that of Brendan Coates, a quadriplegic who was sacked after marijuana was detected in his system in a drug test back in 2010. Coates argued that he was taking it for the antispasmodic properties of cannabis products, to treat his leg spasms, yet the court still went against him.
Coates’ lawyers argued that he had acted lawfully outside of the workplace, but after considering both Colorado and federal law, the court made their decision based on the latter.
Employers have typically won other such cases, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need a workplace policy. Legal costs are always costly and the chance of defeat remains.
The marijuana revolution continues apace and it’s high time employers got up to speed, rather than turning a blind eye. It’s not about employers being pro or anti-cannabis, but to ensure employees aren’t left in a place of ambiguity. A crystal-clear stance on marijuana only serves to improve the relationship between the two.
Where does your workplace stand on marijuana? Let us know in the comments.