Hazed and Confused: Navigating Marijuana Laws in the Workplace

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 update you on the latest law changes, which can be quite hazy for employers.  Currently, 29 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, Vermont and Washington, plus the District of Columbia have laws that allow marijuana to be used recreationally.  Vermont became the first state

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 legalize recreational use happened in 2012, as Barack Obama was in office.  Obama’s administration essentially left the legalization as mostly a states’ rights issue.  After over a year as President, Donald Trump's administration's policy on the issue is a bit foggy, as we will roll into later.

The legalization movement is also picking up steam in other states.  A Gallup poll in 2017 showed that 64% of Americans favor legalization of recreational marijuana, including a number of Republicans.  Many see the benefits of a tax, where in Colorado, the tax brought in around $200 million, and in Washington about $256- where most of the money goes to the public school systems. 

However, with a new administration in January Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked Justice Department guidance which was issued under the Obama administration.  This guidance discouraged enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states that had legalized it on their own.  This week (April 16, 2018), the White House has confirmed that President Donald Trump promised Colorado Senator Cory Gardner that he would support legislation that would protect states that have legalized marijuana from a federal crackdown by Attorney General Sessions.  While Trump may have promised the senator, the fact remains that Sessions revoked the guidance and nothing new is in place today to protect state’s rights.  Stay tuned!

For support in weeding through the issue, contact us at myHRcounsel!