Does Your Workplace Need a Marijuana Policy?


If marijuana has been legalized in your state, you should probably be thinking about the implications of having a workplace policy.

Sera Jane Ghaly
Nov 19, 2015

If marijuana has been legalized in your state, you should probably be thinking about the implications of having a workplace marijuana policy. This is a pertinent question because it’s likely that legal issues will arise out of the ambiguity without a workplace policy. This leads to a completely undesired federal scrutiny on an issue that they already hold a negative opinion about.

The answer is yes – every workplace should have a marijuana policy. With employees potentially using it for medical reasons (because it is legal in some states), employers need to make clear rules about what is permitted in the workplace.

A marijuana policy protects employees and employers
workplace smoke Does Your Workplace Need a Marijuana Policy?
Photo credit: Property Casual 360

The point of the workplace agreement about marijuana is that it gives legal security to both the employee and the employer. Ambiguity about the rules associated with marijuana use (recreationally or medicinally) can cause major legal issues.

In four states in the USA, marijuana has been legalized recreationally and is legal at least medically in 23 more. With the legalization movement spreading across the USA, it’s likely that employees might be coming to work under the influence of marijuana. The legal headache this could cause is enormous, and a major confusion between employees and employers.

Nearly half of small businesses nationwide in the USA do not have a workplace marijuana policy, and 10% of them have reported that employees have come to work under the influence. This alone suggests that a marijuana policy is important to maintain the workplace.

For the sake of avoiding federal scrutiny
workplace federal Does Your Workplace Need a Marijuana Policy?
Photo credit: Canorml

The ambiguity of workplace marijuana and alcohol agreements could lead to federal scrutiny on a matter that, well, doesn’t really need any more federal scrutiny in a negative way right now.

“All employers regardless of size should have a drug and alcohol policy,” says Todd Wulffson, an attorney at Carothers DiSante & Freudenberger. Wulffson says that if an incident happens relating to safety in the workplace, and it is involving marijuana, it is likely that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will step in as enforcement. This administration belongs to the federal government, and as is always the case, the federal stance on the matter will trump state law.

States that support the medical (and recreational) use of marijuana should be requiring employers to enforce a marijuana policy in the workplace if only for this reason.

What about CBD-only marijuana?

cbd feature Does Your Workplace Need a Marijuana Policy?

In the case of medical marijuana patients, they may be using marijuana that contains only CBD. It does not contain the psychoactive agent, THC, which is what makes people stoned. There are also states that have legalized the use of CBD-only marijuana, and this is extremely pertinent to those states.

There was already a case in Colorado in 2010 where a quadriplegic was fired because he failed a workplace drug test that found some marijuana in his system. Brandon Coates was using it to help with his leg spasms, but the court ruled against him nonetheless. His lawyers tried to argue that he was engaging in a lawful act outside of his work duties, but the court ruled that in consideration of both federal and state law, the federal law took precedence.

Despite the fact that employers have generally been on the winning side of these cases, business should still enforce a policy to avoid losing costly lawsuits.

The workplace needs a marijuana policy because the laws, attitudes and cultures are changing. In order to stay up to date with these changes and maintain the best relationship with their employers, it is imperative for them to lay down the law about their workplace. It is unfair for the employee to be in an ambiguous legal position, and it could be costly for the employer.

Does your workplace have a marijuana policy?

Sera Jane Ghaly
Nov 19, 2015