California just became the latest state to legalize sales of marijuana for recreational use. This change could make a major impact on businesses in the state. And it’s not just those in the cannabis industry. Any employer in a state with legalized cannabis should be aware of some of the issues surrounding worker rights and workplace safety in relation to legal marijuana use.
Although this can be a complicated and ever-changing issue, businesses can find a balance between maintaining a safe and productive workplace and upholding the rights of employees.
Tips on Legalized Marijuana at Work
Here are some things to consider when shaping your policies.
Don’t Assume Marijuana Must Be Permitted Just Because it is Legal
There are plenty of activities that, while technically legal, aren’t allowed in most workplaces. So you’re not legally obligated to allow employees to partake if it has an impact on job performance or workplace safety issues, though you can’t necessarily control what employees do otherwise.
Michelle Lee Flores, labor and employment attorney for Cozen O’Connor in Los Angeles said in an email to Small Business Trends, “Remind employees of the company’s policies — drug in the workplace and safety in the workplace — that remain in effect even with legal recreational cannabis.”
Make Policies Clear from the Outset
However, if recreational marijuana use is legal in your state, it might create confusion for some employees if you don’t make your expectations clear. To avoid any potential issues, Flores suggests addressing the issue directly with your employees, whether that means updating your employee handbook, scheduling a meeting on the subject or simply sending out an email that lays out your policies and expectations.
Use Your Policy on Alcohol as a Template
If you’re looking for a simple comparison to help your team understand your policies surrounding legal marijuana use, look no further than alcohol.
Flores explains, “Analogize using and being impaired by cannabis to that of alcohol — most, if not all, employees understand that although they may have a right to buy and use alcohol, if they show up to work drunk they will be fired.”
Remember Marijuana Is Still Illegal Under Federal Law
Finally, if you’re in a state that has legalized marijuana use, that only means that it is legal under state law. The federal government still does not recognize legalized cannabis in any state. This might not have a major impact on your business unless you’re actually in the cannabis industry. But it’s still an important thing for businesses and individuals alike to be aware of, as policies on that level could impact how laws are enforced in the future.
Photo via Shutterstock