Momentum for legalizing marijuana is growing, and more states are allowing both medicinal and recreational use. These developments put the onus on employers to understand the legal guidelines and how they affect the workplace.
In most states, the use of marijuana for medical conditions is legal. However, the laws are not all exactly the same, For example, they differ in what conditions are acceptable for medicinal use. In order to use the drug this way, a person needs a certification from a healthcare provider and must be registered with the state.
The following states currently allow medical marijuana: Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.The following states currently allow CBD/low-THC medical use: Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
In some states, people who are registered are protected on the job. For instance, in New York, they are covered by the state disability nondiscrimination law. And in Massachusetts, employers may be sued for discrimination if the company fires a person for testing positive for marijuana.
However, these protections usually do not extend to jobs that require drug testing by federal law, such as motor vehicle operators.
Employers do not have to make any allowances for marijuana use on the job, but they may want to look at giving some consideration to medicinal users in states where these people are offered job protections. And, while it may be illegal to discriminate against medicinal users in some areas, employers still have a right to expect employees to be alert and engaged, and can treat marijuana as they would alcohol or prescription drugs. Legal experts recommend that employers have policies in place stating what disciplinary action will result if someone shows signs of inebriation at work and tests positive for marijuana.
Marijuana is legal for recreational use in 11 states for people age 21 and older. Each state has clear guidelines covering the purchase and use of the drug. And no employer has to make any allowances for recreational use on the job.
States that allow recreational and medical marijuana use are Alaska, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont.Four states allow no recreational or medical access of marijuana products in any form: Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota. As more states legalize the drug, employers will need to have clear guidelines in place regarding the use of marijuana by employees, according to legal experts.
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Employers should note that many cities and states have placed substantial limits on what employers may ask job applicants about their criminal history, including restrictions on questions regarding marijuana-related charges.