If you’re wondering about the potential impact California’s legalization of marijuana will have on your business, you can relax.
Proposition 64 specifically allows public and private employers to enact and enforce workplace policies pertaining to marijuana. As an employer, you still have the right to maintain a drug- and alcohol-free workplace. And that includes marijuana, still identified as a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
What about medical marijuana?
What about employees who use medical marijuana? California employers must accommodate employees with medical conditions or disabilities. However, they do not have to allow employees to use marijuana in the workplace, even if a doctor has recommended it. That’s the conclusion of the California Supreme Court in a 2008 case, Ross vs. RagingWire Telecommunications Inc. The court held that an employer could refuse to employ an individual who failed a drug test, even if the positive test resulted from authorized medical use.
California employers can continue to do pre-employment drug testing if they screen all applicants – and refuse to hire applicants who test positive for marijuana. Employers can also test current employees suspected of being under the influence or who have been involved in an accident. They, too, can be fired if the drug test is positive.
Unlike alcohol, where a blood alcohol level of .08 means you are legally impaired, marijuana has no established legal limit. So for now, simply testing positive could cost you a job. That is expected to change, however. Prop. 64 allocates $3 million annually from marijuana tax revenue so the California Highway Patrol can determine the legal limit for marijuana.
Review your drug policy
With legalization of marijuana, employers should review – and potentially update — their drug policy to specifically include marijuana. For example, some policies may only refer to alcohol and illegal drugs, which no longer applies to marijuana in California.
The policies should be communicated to employees, so they won’t mistakenly think Prop. 64 has changed matters at the workplace. The challenge for employers will be communicating and enforcing drug-free policies now that marijuana is legal for recreational use.