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Even Where It’s Legal, Weed in the Workplace Remains in Flux

Even Where It’s Legal, Weed in the Workplace Remains in Flux
Photo Gracie Malley for Cannabis Now


Even Where It’s Legal, Weed in the Workplace Remains in Flux

Work policies surrounding cannabis use for employees in off hours lag behind.

Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean your boss is going be cool about marijuana usage — or does it?

In the midst of cannabis legalization, with all its twists, turns and occasional contradictions, one thing remains apparent: it’s probably never going to be okay to show up to work (perceptibly) stoned. Fine. Whatever.

But as pot becomes lawful in more and more locales, workplaces are still scrambling to adapt their policies to what employees can now legally do on their off-hours — and that lag time certainly doesn’t do workers any favors.

Murky Boundaries

Based on a number of semi-frantic blog posts about how HR should handle company policy post-legalization, it doesn’t appear that American offices have a clear idea about what to do with employees who dabble in dabbing or participate in pot smoking. A blog post from Espyr cites safety, increased healthcare costs, legal and hiring as challenges that the era of legalization has ushered in for HR departments across the country.

“Employers who feel strongly about their workforce steering clear of marijuana use must clarify their position with a clear company policy that outlines the expectations and consequences of a positive test,” the post reads. “Employers who want to take a more liberal approach may want to communicate to workers that even though it’s legal to recreationally use marijuana, being under the influence at work is unacceptable.”

One would assume that much of the confusion and ambivalence from businesses comes from the fact that cannabis still isn’t federally legal, but even in Canada, many businesses are still grappling with how to regulate the cannabis consumption of their employees.

Per a story by Quartz, Canadian airlines have forbidden some employees from using recreational cannabis, citing safety concerns. Other workplaces have reportedly issued memos to remind workers that “a person does not have a right to be impaired in the workplace” and cautioning that the appearance of intoxication can result in drug testing and, results pending, termination.

Pro-Pot Protection?

It almost goes without saying that this all creates a ridiculous standard for cannabis users that people who indulge in other legal intoxicants. Obviously, throwing back a few shots of vodka pre-commute is never going to be behavior that complies with any company’s policy. But the fact that providing free booze is now par for the course (encouraged, even!) at start-ups looking to staff hip youngsters contrasts starkly with a reality where someone can be canned for using medicinal marijuana to deal with IBS, chronic pain, anxiety or any number of serious health concerns.

But surprisingly, the law seems to be shifting with the times, even if not every workplace is there yet — at least when it comes to medical marijuana. Take, for instance, the recent batch of court victories for workers’s rights to use medical marijuana. In early February, a court in Arizona recently found Walmart engaged in wrongful termination after a licensed medical marijuana patient tested positive THC when she was injured in the workplace. In New England, workplace discrimination cases ended in similar rulings, protecting medical marijuana patients.

And legislation proposed by newly elected New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams to ban pre-employment screening for THC within the city, if passed, could set a standard across the country.

One would hope that the advent of federal legalization in the U.S., and legalization at a national level around the world, will clear up a lot of these work-related quandaries. But whether or not cannabis users will be able to shake the stigma and light up out of office without being considered unprofessional is, unfortunately, still unclear.

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