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Marijuana Laws Affect Employees and Employers

August 12th, 2019
medical marijuana

The past few years have brought many changes to state and local laws that affect topics such as paid family leave, privacy regulations, sexual harassment, health care, and recreational and medical marijuana use. The latter seems to be in a constant state of flux, so keeping on top of current legislation is important for users, and particularly so for employees and their employers. Marijuana is classified under federal law as a Schedule I drug, making it illegal to use, distribute, or produce. At the same time, it is legal for medicinal use in 33 states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Many states may have plans to fully legalize both in the future.

A Tricky Landscape

Although the findings are not clear, the Healthline website claims that marijuana can be detected in body fluids from one to 30 days after being used. This can be concerning for employers, especially in industries such as defense, safety, transit, transportation, and education. Companies that employ construction workers, chefs, police officers, firefighters, and others that face certain job-related risks may also worry about marijuana being in their employees’ systems. Countless industries have standard drug-testing procedures for employees but taking action after a positive test result can be a gray area. A recent poll by Paychex attempted to garner some feedback on this very issue.

What Companies are Saying

The poll surveyed 500 random business owners that had less than 500 employees, and it revealed that about 33 percent are not ready to handle employee marijuana use. About 66 percent responded that they felt either somewhat or very prepared for medical marijuana use. The three main industries polled were manufacturing, retail/wholesale, and professional services. One reason why many are not comfortable with the situation is because it can become challenging to initiate drug enforcement policies for medical marijuana.

Employees with legitimate needs for medical marijuana in Pennsylvania and New Jersey express concerns about drug testing. Other employees in similar situations, such as those dealing with chemotherapy, also fear losing their jobs. Since marijuana is illegal under federal law, these employees have legitimate concerns. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against disabled employees and requires employers to allow them reasonable accommodations, it does not allow the use of illegal drugs.

Drug Testing Policies

For the time being, employers should try to take control of their drug testing policies. Not every company has one, nor do they all enforce them. As the laws evolve, more companies should start considering how to create sensible policies that can be enforced, and that their employees can live without worrying about job security. Things to consider include the industry, state and federal law compliance, and most importantly, the overall safety of the employees, customers, and the company.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Understand the Complexities of Workplace Marijuana Use

If you are dealing with an employment concern related to marijuana use, the Philadelphia employment lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. will help protect your rights. For a free consultation, complete an online form or call us at 215-569-1999. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, and South Jersey.

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