Five states to have marijuana legalization on the ballot- and potentially the workplace

With the election less than a month away, a big issue that employers should take note of, is the recreational marijuana measure that five states will vote on.  Currently there 25 states that have legalized marijuana use to a certain degree, including four states that have legalized recreational marijuana (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington).  On Election Day in November, five more states will allow voters to vote on whether marijuana should be legal for recreational use- Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada.  Additionally, voters in Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota will decide whether or not to legalize medical marijuana.

This could be a significant change for employers as around 80 million people live in the states that will vote to either legalize recreational or medical use of marijuana in November.  On the compliance side, there are already laws in place that protect employers by stating that employers do not have to accommodate medical marijuana use.  For example, the Ohio medical marijuana law that was recently passed explicitly states that employers aren’t required to accommodate medical marijuana use.  On the other side, in New York, certified medical marijuana users are protected by a law that requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation for workers with disabilities.

For employers, drafting a policy can be difficult, especially those who operate in multiple states.  Under federal law, marijuana is illegal, so a company would be able to create a zero-tolerance policy that follows federal law.  However, some companies may choose to incorporate state or local laws, and it would be recommended for employers in multiple states to create a uniform substance abuse policy and alter it on a state-by-state basis, depending on the state’s law. 

For further support on this issues, or help drafting a policy for your employee handbook, contact us at myHRcounsel to speak with one of our experienced employment law attorneys.