CA: Marijuana In The Workplace

Photo Credit: Northeastern

Here in San Diego, and across the State, recreational marijuana is being sold and used legally. But this new law does not necessarily change the legal status between employers and employees when it comes to drug testing and employment. You can still be fired for drug use in many cases.

Many employers are sticking to their original drug testing and conduct policies here in California. The new laws are certainly putting HR departments on their toes, as they carefully watch the evolving legal and political environment. Zero-tolerance drug policies can still be enforced in the workplace, since Marijuana is still illegal under federal law.

Companies are not obligated to allow its use, even though it can make it difficult for businesses trying to recruit young professionals with more liberal attitudes toward Cannabis usage. At this time, marijuana users have no employment protection. One strong reason is safety. Simply because California law says it’s legal for recreational purposes doesn’t mean that safety goes out the window.

So What Should Companies Do?

Many companies are reviewing their current policies carefully. They don’t want their employees to come to work under the influence.

• Add training for their management.

• Make certain their employees and new hires are clear about the company policy regarding marijuana use and what is expected of them. Perhaps send out an email to remind workers that even if it’s legal to recreationally smoke weed on their own time, being high at work is still a no-go.

• Make sure to keep up to date on local and federal legislation changes. You don’t want to be caught up in a lawsuit in the future.

• Federal and State law dictates the policies that employers may have in the workplace, including those regarding drugs.

• Under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, employers may prohibit the illegal use of drugs and alcohol in the workplace. The ADA is not violated by testing for illegal use of drugs

• However, employers should be mindful of employees who use medical marijuana. But note – California’s highest court ruled that employers are not required to accommodate an employee’s medicinal marijuana use and that it is legal for employers to fire or not hire someone because of cannabis usage.

What Should Employees do?

Many employees are questioning the difference between a drink and a smoke while off duty. Though many states have legalized marijuana for medical use, the DEA still considers marijuana and its active ingredient—tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC—illegal.

• Check with your HR Department – If you are taking advantage of the new laws, the very first thing you should do is sit with your HR department and see if any changes in their handbooks. Your HR representatives will be able to share the company’s policies surrounding the use of cannabis.

• Rules may also differ depending on the industry. Those working with heavy machinery and vehicles may face stricter testing or rules about usage on the job.

• No matter what, employees can’t be handing out pot brownies at work or smoking weed in the middle of an office. THC can stay in a person’s system for up to a month – long after your use. Keep Marijuana out of the workplace.

• Don’t come to work impaired – alcohol or marijuana.

It remains to be seen how California will handle the use of Cannabis in the workplace. Right now, employees must continue to follow the rulings of the employer. Just remember, if you can’t be drunk at work – you can’t be high!