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HR Tips: Preparing for the Legalization of Marijuana

By Lilly Chesser - Apr. 17, 2019
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Now that marijuana has become legal in most American states, it’s essential for all HR professionals to understand each aspect of the legalization.

On October 17th, 2018, Canada legalized the recreational use of cannabis. The people in Canada are permitted to carry a small amount of cannabis under the new laws. In some states, they’re allowed to consume it in public areas like sidewalks and parks.

Michigan became the 10th state in the U.S. to legalize the use of recreational marijuana on November 6, 2018, which has led people wondering what changes could possibly show up in workplaces.

Surprisingly, consuming recreational marijuana at work is and probably will remain illegal.

According to research, 71% of employers aren’t able to handle cannabis legalization in the workplace yet. The new  “Act” allows for employers to keep a drug-free environment.

In this article, we’re going to help you learn all about the legalization of cannabis and the best tips for HR professionals. Now is the perfect time to get your policies and practices updated!

Adults can possess up to 30 grams of cannabis in public, according to the law. Larger amounts of cannabis might still be subject to prosecution. The federal government set the minimum age of possession to be eighteen. However, all individual states can choose a higher minimum age.

Each state government has built the laws for their respective state and the retail process for cannabis sale.

Individuals should purchase cannabis only from these state government-approved outlets. Any illegal purchase of cannabis, like from the black market, is still considered to be against the law. Similar to that, sale and purchase of cannabis products to and from a minor will be deemed as an offense too.

The impaired driving laws are also likely to change owing to cannabis legalization. The states are most likely to follow a zero-tolerance policy for driving while intoxicated from weed. However, details like the way to detect the level of pot intoxication to be used by the police are still not precise.

The state laws concerning legal and illegal practices of cannabis are somewhat sketchy at the moment. This is why you shouldn’t forget to check out the rules in your respective state to understand better regarding what’s permissible and what isn’t where you live.

Permitting marijuana in the workplace

Legalization of marijuana has brought forth the main challenge that HR professionals will have to face, and that is handling employees that smoke weed during or before their working hours. As a result, many questions have risen.

How should the employer act on an employee who shows up at work high, paralyzing safety at or the quality of their work? Should an employee be terminated on the basis of that? Can employers ban pot intake in employment bonds? Is testing for drugs allowed even on the legalization of marijuana?

As it turns out, there are more questions than one can provide answers for. However, there are several things we do know. It doesn’t matter how many health benefits marijuana is proven to have, you can’t deny that it’s an intoxicant. While this doesn’t really help the cause of safety for employees in industries such as construction, public transit, and many more, some policies prohibiting reckless consumption of weed need to be put in place.

No smoking weed during working hours

It doesn’t matter whether marijuana gets legalized or not; all employers should enforce strict rules on their employees to have them come to work sober. This could easily be imposed on office employees.

However, for workers that spend the majority of their time working in the field (e.g., security guards, delivery drivers, etc.), it wouldn’t be so easy to monitor them. In such cases, you need to have a better understanding of them. You can try educating your employees on how to detox from weed and avoid consumption while working.

Clearing doubts

We recommend not putting down any queries regarding medicinal marijuana use by the employees. Instead, ask them to explain any accommodations required. Also, you should respect the employees’ right to privacy on matters concerning medical issues.

However, you still have the right to know about their medication records to ensure their effectiveness at work.

Medical use of marijuana

Employers need to insist on their employees to consume medicinal marijuana carefully and avoid marijuana plant flowers in situations where they’re fully dependent on it to most likely tolerate pain and function well.

Drug Tests

Medicinal marijuana is gaining a scientific and legal base every day. Therefore, it has become more crucial for HR professionals to keep their drug testing policies updated.

Medical marijuana reimbursement

Business owners and insurance companies should work together to build a cannabis policy for the workplace.

The Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) has elaborate materials on marijuana legalization that can help you in constructing appropriate policies for your workplace.

Employers should consider medical and recreational cannabis as two different streams. This should help them determine when to accommodate cannabis use for medical reasons. The above steps will help lessen your confusion and increase transparency in regards to marijuana legalization at work.


Lilly Chesser

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