Grace Hill Training Tip of the Week
Drug-Free Workplace Policies and Marijuana
Under many state laws, marijuana is legal for either recreational or medical use. Under federal law, however, it’s illegal. This conflict between federal and state law can create confusion as to what is or isn’t allowed, especially in the workplace.
It is important to know that no state law requires employers to tolerate on-the-job marijuana use. Employers can legally maintain a drug and alcohol-free workplace and implement policies prohibiting the use of marijuana by employees and prospective employees. Additionally, if employers are receiving federal funding, they are obligated to comply with all federal laws, including those that prohibit the possession and use of marijuana.
What about medical marijuana users? While some states have special laws for registered medical marijuana users, this does not mean that employers must allow on-the-job use, even if a worker is using marijuana for medical reasons. In medical-use cases, reasonable accommodations may include additional time off or a leave of absence while the employee is using the drug.
Given the confusion that the conflict between federal and state law creates, it may be necessary to make changes to policies and procedures to be more explicit about marijuana use. Here are some tips.
- Work closely with your human resources and legal departments to review and revise your employee handbook to confirm your drug-free workplace policies align with company objectives and that your policy does not vaguely refer to legal or illegal drugs.
- Policies that refer to “legal” or “illegal” drugs may create gray areas because marijuana is both legal and illegal depending on which laws you are considering. Consider adding language to your policies that specifically refers to marijuana.
- Also, consider adding language to company policies that clearly state that employees can’t be drunk or high at work.
- Be particularly careful with medical marijuana users. They could be using for an illness or ailment considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act or state disabilities laws. The law in this area is rapidly evolving and additional legal protections may be coming in the near future.
As the world changes, so must drug and alcohol use policies change with them. However, it remains an employers’ right to enforce a drug-free workplace.