As many of you know, April 20th is commonly recognized by many people as the unofficial “national smoke marijuana day,” which provides us with the perfect opportunity to clear the air on the latest law changes, so you don’t have to fear the reefer. Currently, 26 states and the District of Columbia have laws that legalize the use of marijuana in recreational or medical form, and in some cases both. Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, plus the District of Columbia have laws that allow marijuana to be used recreationally.
At the federal level, marijuana is still considered to be a Schedule I drug, which is the highest classification- which also includes drugs like heroin and ecstasy. Additionally at the federal level, Congress passed a spending bill in 2014 that included a provision that barred the Justice Department from using funds to go after state medical marijuana programs (This provision still remains).
The first states to blaze the trail for legalizing recreational use happened in 2012, when Barack Obama was in office. Obama’s administration essentially left the legalization as mostly a states’ rights issue. It is more unclear what President Trump’s administration plans to do, however during the campaign, his stance mostly aligned with Obama’s. At odds with that is the appointment of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. He has a long history of opposing the legalization of marijuana and could aggressively prosecute marijuana cases, even in states that have legalized its use. The general sentiment seems to be that he will be harsher on marijuana crimes than his predecessors, unless, that is, he was just blowing smoke.
Many see the benefits of a tax, where in Colorado, the tax brought in around $200 million, and in Washington about $256 million - where most of the money goes to the public school systems. Invariably, other states will find it hard to just say no to that kind of tax revenue. Indeed, this money has created high hopes amongst those that support the legalization movement, which is now picking up steam in other states. Lawmakers this year in 17 states, including Connecticut, Hawaii, and Minnesota have introduced measures and tax the sales.
Employers in states that allow some use of marijuana chronically face questions on drug testing dos and don’ts. myHRcounsel will help you weed through the issues that you face as employers.