The Effect of Legalizing Marijuana on the workplace.

| Dec 11, 2019 | Employment Law

As the New Jersey legislature proceeds through its “lame duck” session in the last days of 2019, it is possible that the Assembly and Senate may revisit the bill legalizing recreational marijuana usage and vote to adopt same. While the legislation will decriminalize recreational usage at the state level, marijuana still remains a Schedule 1 regulated substance per the Federal Controlled Substance Act. Accordingly, you will need to ensure that your employee handbooks and workplace policies address the consumption, usage, testing of this substance during your working hours. How you address it will depend on the nature of your business and the specific job tasks done by your different categories of employees.

As marijuana is legalized, you must expect an increase in usage. Depending on the nature of the job responsibilities and scope of work, the company will need to implement random drug testing procedures and incorporate them into their employee handbook and policies. You may want to consider a “zero tolerance” policy to send a strong message combined with strong language about random drug testing and termination. Employers with job tasks involving heavy machinery, manufacturing processes, construction work, health and safety, driving and delivery etc. will approach the issue differently than those with just desk workers. However, you will definitely want to ensure that no one is under the influence during working hours and your policies that apply to alcohol will apply to marijuana as well. A key part of implementing these policies is to ensure that they are enforced uniformly throughout the workplace and with respect to all employees, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, age, disability etc.

Companies should also be cognizant of how this law will affect their workers’ compensation insurance and check with their insurance carriers and brokers on required procedures that they may want implemented with respect to this issue. This is particularly important if you have employees out in the field in company vehicles etc.

HELPFUL TIPS:

  1. Make sure you update your employee handbook and personnel policies, random drug testing policies, etc. to address this issue.
  2. Check in with your workers compensation insurance carrier to see if they will require additional policies or documents implemented in the workplace (you don’t want to find this out during a workers’ compensation audit.)
  3. Include a discussion of how these policies in your annual workplace trainings.
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