Up in Smoke: What New Drug Statutes Mean for Your Business

marijuana up in smoke

If there’s one thing we can all count on, it’s that everyone recognizes the essential importance of maintaining a drug-free workplace, right? Well…sort of.

Federally regulated companies such as those in the trucking and transportation industries are compelled by very strict requirements to aggressively develop and maintain a drug-free workplace as defined by federal law. Many other companies (and presumably most) apply similar standards as they seek to protect patients, passengers, customers and, of course, their business.

Nonetheless, change in some communities is now ‘in the air’. The District of Columbia has passed a law legalizing a certain level of possession and cultivation of marijuana by adults (those who are age 21 or above). The state of Maryland has a proposed bill moving through the legislature intended to legalize, tax and regulate the marijuana business.

Anyone who thinks that this trend is unlikely to continue into Pennsylvania and other states would do well to remember the recent history of gambling in the United States. For decades, gambling was limited to Las Vegas, Atlantic City, some convenience stores in South Carolina and a hodge-podge of horse racing and dog racing tracks. Now, it’s everywhere, even in Central Pennsylvania. It’s a solid bet to consider that legalization of marijuana use will probably follow a similar path across the nation over the coming decade.

With that in mind, and the existing and soon-to-be-passed laws in neighboring jurisdictions in mind, employers should consider the implications of operating in this mixed-legislation environment.

One thing remains unchanged: Employers are still authorized to perform employee drug testing nationwide (and are, as we noted, often required to by federal law). This is even true in places like the District of Columbia. What is less clear is how things could develop if an employer finds out that an employee participates in the use of marijuana outside the work place, and resides or spends time in a jurisdiction where local law may permit this as legal activity.

Federal contractors as well as federally-regulated companies should of course continue with the strict policies they have in place. In fact, security clearances for federal work can be denied to individuals on the basis of using drugs or even associating with those who do regardless of their personal use or lack thereof.

Bottom Line: The best way to maintain a drug-free workplace is to maintain a rigorous, consistent and legally compliant workplace drug testing program that is backed by a complete and well-documented drug-free workplace policy. Screening may be limited in the future in certain jurisdictions, but in most cases today it remains untouched by recent legal changes.

Staying focused on policy, procedure and consistent testing also helps your company avoid the risks associated with hearsay about whether or not an employee may be using marijuana, or why they might be doing so (i.e. whether such use is medically related or recreational only). In the meantime, stay fully informed on developments in state and local laws across the jurisdictions in which you presently do business.

Selected Sources:

7 States with Pending Legislation to Legalize Medical Marijuana

Bill to limit marijuana screening by D.C. employers advances in council

Do New Drug Laws Impact Drug Testing, Security Clearances?http://www.arlnow.com/2015/03/09/legal-insider-do-new-drug-laws-impact-drug-testing-security-clearances/

Image Credit: cagrimmett (Flickr @ Creative Commons)

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