Legalized and Medical Marijuana Laws: What Do They Mean For Employers?

Though the New York State legislature failed to legalize marijuana in its final session in June, the end result was a decriminalization bill. Under the revised bill, the penalty for marijuana possession is reduced, and certain marijuana-related criminal records are eligible to be expunged. With a mixture of laws in place, understanding the legal situation is complex.

There are currently 10 states, and the District of Columbia that allow recreational use of marijuana, though it continues to be regulated on the Federal level. Thirty-three additional states allow medical usage when a user completes a registration process. So, what does this mean for employers?

First, says Dr. Jay Sandys, it is important to review your drug policy. Recreational marijuana users should be covered under the same company rules as alcohol, but it is also important to understand that medical users may be covered under ADA. In addition, Dr. Sandys notes, many employees may be covered under Federal regulations because of their role in the company. Many machine operators, for example, are subject to DOT safety regulations and may be subject to drug testing.

The bottom line is that employers need to take the time to review their drug policy in light of the new laws, as well as reviewing their overall organizational health. There are many factors that may contribute to substance use and abuse. Organizational wellness requires that employers maintain an up-to-date understanding of not only their own culture, but also the larger society around them.

So, what should you do? Navigating the overlapping laws can be confusing. Contact your EAP provider or CCA if you have questions or need to review their impact on your current substance abuse policies.