Starting January 1, 2018, California will finally start selling recreational marijuana. California reisdents will be able to easily walk into a marijuana dispensary and buy recreational pot without a medical recommendation. Being one of the most populous states, the marijuana industry is likely to flourish more so than any other state in the country. The legalization of recreational marijuana is going to create a gray area when it comes to the screening of employees and work place drug tests. Remember that marijuana is still illegal at the federal level in the U.S.
California is not the only state to legalize Cannabis for recreational use; a number of other states in the U.S. are looking to legalize marijuana, even if only for medical purposes. Many other countries around the world have also started to follow the legalization trend, such as Canada, which is one of the biggest markets for marijuana in the world. Canada is expected to legalize recreational marijuana in 2018. Marijuana legalization has forced businesses to grapple with how to deal with some of their employees who use marijuana and report to work feeling high or hung over.
Alcohol and many other drugs that are already recreationally legal don’t last as long in your system as Cannabis does. For instance, Marijuana can stay in your system for weeks or even months after using it, while alcohol only lasts in your system for 24 to 48 hours. The long lasting effects of Cannabis can lead to problems when it comes to workplace drug tests. Employees are allowed to use marijuana on their personal time in the state or country where marijuana is legal, but should they be fired when they test positive for Cannabis during the random workplace drug test?
The interpretation of how to deal with such drug tests is hard. Some laws conflict with the marijuana policies in that state or workplace. These complicated laws have made it hard for companies that have offices across various states, in particular large corporations like Costco. Many companies have offices in places where marijuana is legal and others where it is illegal.
Marijuana is still illegal under federal law in the United States, but 29 states have legalized marijuana for recreational or medical use and more states are bound to feel the urge to legalize Marijuana after seeing the huge tax windfall. It is estimated that more than 20% of American adults have smoked marijuana, with 14% using cannabis regularly. It is still expected that marijuana use in the United States will steadily increase as the plant becomes normalized and federally legal. States are realizing that marijuana could be a huge cash cow from which they can benefit. This is according to various studies that show how the marijuana industry will bring in billions of dollars in tax revenue.
Different marijuana laws
Even states that have legalized marijuana have problems cooperating, as laws differ state by state (and in some cases the laws conflict state by state). Judges are facing the same issue when it comes to court cases throughout the country. Some court rulings have permitted companies to fire employees who were found to test positive for marijuana, even in states where Cannabis is legal. One example is a case brought to the Colorado Supreme Court in which the court ruled that an employee could be fired due to the use of marijuana, even if the use is for medical purposes. Since cannabis is still illegal under federal law, the court upheld that the employee could be fired. The worst part is that the employee was a patient who benefited from cannabis and received relief suffering from painful muscle spasms.
In other states, laws have been enacted to protect patients who use marijuana. Employers are supposed to accommodate such patients as they use marijuana to alleviate pain or deal with other health conditions. So long as the drug does not interfere with the their performance at work, the patient should be able to use the medicine to deal with their various conditions.
The United States isn’t the only country where companies conduct random drug testing. Various drug testing practices can be found in the workplace throughout the world. In Europe, the laws are comparable to the U.S. or Canada. In some countries, the employer cannot randomly test their employees, but rather have to inform the employees prior to the test taking place. In most countries that have allowed the use of marijuana for medical or recreational user, the patient has to report their cannabis use to the employer in order to comply with the company standards or state applicable laws.
Despite continued legalization efforts and the mainstreaming of marijuana throughout the world, we must wait to see how things play out when it comes to the implementation of marijuana laws in the workplace. One can hope that employers will be fair to those patients who need marijuana to alleviate painful or debilitating symptoms.