Pot smokers – at least those in Colorado and Washington – rejoiced earlier this year when lawmakers in those states legalized marijuana for recreational purposes (as opposed to medicinal). Now people age 21+ can freely smoke pot in the privacy of their own homes without risk of getting arrested for possession.

What is often overlooked in this pro-pot victory is the side effects it may have on someone’s current employment or job prospects. Just because the law says an adult is free to smoke weed doesn’t mean that an employer can’t fire you or eliminate candidates from consideration. Employers are still well within their legal right to impose sanctions on employees and candidates for failing a drug test, including marijuana.

Previously, employees’ medical marijuana use was also bound by employers drug testing policies. Court interpretations of medical marijuana (before Amendment 64 passed) decriminalized it for permitted patients, but did not necessarily make marijuana legal. What that meant is that employers still had the legal and final say in deciding whether or not to hire or terminate someone for consuming medical marijuana, even if they had a prescription.

Any hiring and onboarding procedure and policy worth its salt will have some stipulation about drug use. Drug testing is most likely routine for any healthcare, education and transportation position, and is probable for many other industries. Eliminating employees or candidates who test positive for drugs is imperative for many reasons, including:

  • maintaining workplace safety
  • improving job performance
  • keeping liability insurance premiums affordable
  • reducing likelihood of lawsuits
  • maintaining your company’s reputation

Another reason many employers impose an all-out ban on drugs is because it’s nearly impossible to determine how long marijuana will remain in someone’s body (it fluctuates for everyone). A zero-tolerance policy is often the best defense against any drug-related issues that could crop up.

As the media firestorm over these landmark laws grew, some feared pot smokers were getting pushed into a false sense of security that their jobs were safe. Indeed, their jobs were not. Amendment 64 plainly states that it will not “affect the ability of employers to have policies restricting the use of marijuana by employees.” Translation? If a company has a drug policy that prohibits the use of marijuana then anyone working for that company is subject to the company’s punishment if they fail a drug test – even if they get high on their own time.

This week on ActiveCare we’re going to examine the effects legalizing marijuana is having on employer and employee rights. While many employers who already have zero-tolerance policies on the books will stick with these, some employers may feel compelled to draft new, more lenient policies or to create a drug policy for the first time. Whatever option employers choose, experts advise having something in writing. Stay tuned later this week for advice on writing your drug policy and we’ll examine a couple of case studies waiting to play out in the legal system that may have repercussions for all of us.

We’d love to hear from you on this topic. What questions do you have about legalizing marijuana and how it will effect your current job or job prospects? Send them to us and we’ll be sure to get you the answers!

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