Will Federal Offices Amend Their Cannabis Workplace Policies?
With federal legalization in the United States edging further and further, many state-hired employees are curious about cannabis workplace policies. As of now, cannabis is still illegal under federal law, listed as a Schedule 1 illegal drug. Should federal provisions be changed to protect medical cannabis patients’ right to medicine in the workplace, or will the Drug-Free Workplace Act still hold power over state law?
As of now, over 30 states have declared legal medical marijuana, with recreational use legal in nine. Businesses, HR departments, and legal teams have still been layered with confusion regarding cannabis. Many are scrambling to develop a coherent and consistent stance regarding their personal cannabis workplace policies.
Federal law and state law have had increasing tensions flare up, as employers aren’t sure if they can prohibit the recreational use or whether they need to support “reasonable accommodation” to medical cannabis cardholders. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) doesn’t apply to medical cannabis patients.
The Story, State-by-state
While some states such as New York, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, and Nevada amongst others have enacted laws containing strict anti-discrimination provisions to protect medical patients, other states and even private companies have a completely different stance on cannabis workplace policies.
Many employers have enacted strict anti-drug, zero-tolerance policies in rebuttal, primarily with safety in mind. As it’s still federally illegal, state law then clashes with federal law, opening the debate on which jurisdiction really has the final say on workers’ rights.
In California, a court has recently ruled that an employer still has the right to discipline employees even when cannabis use is recommended by a physician.
The cannabis workplace policies in Arizona are significantly different. An employer is not to discriminate against a medical patient who fails a test unless the person used, possessed or was under the influence while at work.
“Legal issues arising out marijuana uses must be addressed on a state by state basis and specifically within approved medical marijuana states… There is no blank answer to this one.”
The Real Solution to Cannabis Workplace Policies
In the end, much of the debate comes down to personal safety and the employer’s personal views. The profession someone has will ultimately make the biggest difference with regards to cannabis workplace policies.
Heavy duty machine operator? Unlikely you’ll be allowed to use the equipment while under the influence.
Graphic design artist at a marketing firm? Your workplace might be a bit more lenient. Jill Cohen, attorney at Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott had this to say regarding cannabis and the workplace.
“Just as employers are ill-advised to permit alcohol use at the workplace, so too with recreational marijuana,”
Obviously, it’s an understandable risk that companies don’t want to take. If you’re dealing with the safety of your employees as well as customers, the low risk, high-reward scenario is the path businesses are most likely to take.
So, How Will Federal Offices React?
Federal workplaces, offices, and environments held in legal states may be the last to see cannabis workplace policies change as their regulations will be influenced by the federal scheduling of cannabis. The frequency or even possibility that the federally sanctioned workplace will impose drug tests will also depend on the profession.
If you’re in a position where you’re still uncertain about recreational and medical marijuana use, consult your employer to get a clear answer on it. There are a lot of variables in place and what you read online might leave you with a wrong answer.