How to adjust to new laws.
Once only theorized, marijuana legalization becomes more of a reality every year with more states passing legislation allowing for its medical and/or recreational use.
To date, 11 states—and Washington, D.C.—have passed laws allowing for recreational use. Another 36 have legalized medical use. Marijuana remains illegal for any use in only three states—Idaho, South Dakota, and Nebraska—though South Dakota has decriminalized possession.
Compare this to 10 years ago when only 16 states had legalized medical marijuana, and none had allowed for it to be used recreationally. Obviously, the legal landscape has changed dramatically in the last decade.
For businesses in states where marijuana has just been legalized, developing a corporate policy for employees can be a challenge. However, it isn’t as daunting as it sounds if business owners craft their new policy with three specific areas in mind.
1. Use your alcohol policy as a guide.
Chances are some of your employees already use alcohol. And chances are your company has already developed a policy for alcohol use.
In states where recreational marijuana is legal, creating a marijuana policy isn’t much different from creating an alcohol policy. Many of the ideas in your company’s alcohol policy regarding possession on company property and use of the substance during business hours apply with marijuana. Take the rules you currently have in place for alcohol and apply them to your new marijuana policy.
For example, change your policy slightly to say, “The company forbids the possession, use, sale, storage, or distribution of alcohol, marijuana, and any related paraphernalia on company premises. Furthermore, any employee under the influence of alcohol or marijuana during work hours will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.”
In states where marijuana is approved only for medicinal use, employers should require employees to provide appropriate medical certification to verify their marijuana use has been authorized. Make sure you clearly state it is the employee’s duty to inform the company of any drugs that have been prescribed. Beyond that, apply the same rules mentioned above.
2. Communicate clearly with employees.
State governments cannot mandate that companies allow their employees to use marijuana, and some companies continue to bar use of the substance. This can cause confusion among employees when a new law is passed, and more complications arise when the company doesn’t explicitly state their stance.
Be clear with your employees. This means being proactive and creating a policy before the law can be enacted if possible. In the days before the law goes into effect, your human resources department should send a message to employees detailing the company’s new policy and how it affects them.
3. Be prepared to adjust your policy.
Though a vast majority of states have legalized marijuana in some capacity, it remains illegal for use or possession under federal law. Federal laws are subject to change, however, and the federal government could either decide to legalize use in all states or tighten restrictions.
In any event, be prepared for laws to change. They may not change drastically, but it’s better to over-prepare than be caught off guard.
This blog post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to convey or constitute legal advice, or to be a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a qualified attorney. You should not act upon any such information without first seeking qualified professional counsel on your specific policy.
Has your office created a policy for marijuana? What does it say? Let us know in the comments!