Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Legalized Marijuana and Your Business

Two states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana and other states may follow suit. A number of other states permit the use of pot for medical purposes. Is it time to review your employee manual to account for this drug?

On-the-job versus off-the-job use

You may have heard of the Washington man who was first in line to purchase marijuana the day it became legal in that state. (The employer had seen him in the local media and was unaware that he had taken the day off.) When the test showed him to be positive for pot use, he was fired. He was later reinstated when it was clear that he was not on the job the day he used the drug.
This is only the first instance of any repercussions for legal marijuana use as it relates to the workplace. It won’t be long before there are terminations that come before the Department of Labor for review.

What to do

If you are in a state that has legalized marijuana, it may be worthwhile to review your company’s employee manual and set guidelines with respect to marijuana use. You can restrict use for safety reasons, but you can’t put a blanket ban on it if marijuana is legal in your state. You may not need to make any changes if you have a substance abuse policy that is broad enough to cover marijuana’s new legal status.

If you don’t have a policy in place that is suitable, consider rules that parallel those for alcohol use in the workplace. For example, there should be an explicit ban on driving for company business—or driving a company-owned vehicle for any reason—while under the influence. Be sure to check with your attorney before putting anything in writing.

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