Don’t let your HR Practices go up in smoke – Stay Informed

In light of recent laws regarding the legalization of medicinal marijuana, employers must establish a balance between maintaining an inclusive work environment that still focuses on employee safety. A CBS News poll recently reported that 88% of Americans now favor legalization of medicinal marijuana. With this shift in public opinion and ultimately the legalization of medicinal marijuana in 29 states across the country, a revisit on HR practices of marijuana use within the workplace requires further study. To avoid potential risks of wrongful-termination or negligent-hire claims while also balancing employee safety, each HR department must define clear policies to address this growing issue.

In regards to medicinal marijuana, an important distinction is the difference between federal and state laws. At the federal level, the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 is still in place which identifies marijuana as an illegal substance. In addition, employers are responsible for upholding the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988. Unfortunately, a lack of defined correlation between conflicting laws is creating additional confusion within states that have legalized medicinal marijuana.

The main question on every HR department’s agenda is whether or not they can still limit marijuana use within the workplace. The answer is definitely yes, you can. Legalization of medicinal marijuana does not grant approval for employees to conduct duties while impaired. The courts have continued to uphold that employees cannot be impaired while performing job duties. Ultimately, the employer is still responsible for identifying and correcting employee behaviors that threaten employee safety. 

Below are guidelines to maintain a safe work environment that still remains inclusive in upholding the American with Disabilities Act.

  1. Treat medicinal marijuana as you would any other prescribed medication.
  2. Make expectations and consequences clear regarding job duties and ability to meet those
  3. Identify roles and specific responsibilities that have the potential of putting people at risk.
  4. Use conditional offers during employee selection that clearly outlines company policies and
  5. Build regular communications to re-enforce company policy on drug and alcohol abuse.
  6. Provide extensive training on identifying unfit-for-work conditions and consequences.

Granted, employment of government contractors or any position subject to Department of Transportation regulations clearly defines that employees must be drug free. Despite legalization of medicinal marijuana, a company must remain informed and proactively build policies that uphold safety expectations while clearly defining consequences.