Opinion

Marijuana: What Now for Employers?

Opinion

By Tom Jones

 

Massachusetts has a new law permitting the possession and recreational use of marijuana. Voters approved Question 4 on legalization last week by a margin of 53.6% to 46.4%.

And unlike the earned-sick-time law a couple of years ago, this one comes with a short lead-in period — the law takes effect on Dec. 15.

What does the 12-page statute mean for employers?

The law focuses almost exclusively on the regulation and taxation of the sale of recreational marijuana. The measure will actually have little to no direct impact on most employers. There is only a short reference to employment in section 2, which discusses limitations of the law:

“This chapter shall not require an employer to permit or accommodate conduct otherwise allowed by this chapter (i.e. the use of recreational marijuana) in the workplace and shall not affect the authority of employers to enact and enforce workplace policies restricting the consumption of marijuana by employees.”

Employers should keep an eye out for potential court cases related to the new law. Such cases could materially affect the manner in which employers implement the law in the future.”

Companies that addressed their drug-testing and drug-use policies in response to the 2012 medical-marijuana law can prepare for the 2016 law with little more than a quick review. For companies that did not establish policies four years ago, now is the time to do so.

Review your drug/alcohol-free workplace policies to ensure that they cover all forms of drug use, including marijuana. You should also review your drug- and alcohol-testing polices to ensure they cover the topics you want.

You may want to revise your policy to ensure that it covers all aspects of your workplace, including vehicles used for business purposes, off-site duties at customer sites, work-related events and seminars, and company-owned parking lots and garages.

Employers should keep an eye out for potential court cases related to the new law. Such cases could materially affect the manner in which employers implement the law in the future.

There has been only one legal case so far in Massachusetts involving an employee and medical marijuana. In that case, the employee was terminated, then sued, claiming discrimination, and the court ruled in the employer’s favor on all six counts, except privacy.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts is available to answer any questions about the new marijuana law or about reviewing and updating your drug-use related polices. Contact Beth Yohai at [email protected] or (617) 262-1180, ext. 335.

Tom Jones is vice president of Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

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