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What Legalization Means for You

As of this writing, the use of recreational marijuana is now legal in nine states, as well as Washington DC. Marijuana use for medical purposes is legal in 31 states. Additionally, our Canadian neighbors have lifted all restrictions on recreational marijuana.

Even if your state still has traditional marijuana laws on the books, the odds are good that you will soon come in contact with a potential employee from a state or country that has given them the right to smoke weed. How can you best adjust your hiring practices and drug screening policy to address the changing legal landscape surrounding this substance?

Let’s first address the very real fact that no one wants their employees working impaired. Much like alcohol, no one wants staff working under the influence of marijuana. Inebriation of any kind invites dangers to your business, be they physical or reputational. However, we typically do not test potential hires for alcohol use. If we did, would you turn a shining candidate away for using a completely legal substance? As local laws regarding the criminalization of marijuana change, this becomes a more difficult consideration for employers.

And laws are changing. By the time you read this, much of the information here may be outdated which brings us to our most important recommendation: Stay abreast of changes to the laws in your state.

As of this point, all states still allow employers to test for marijuana use, and none restrict an employer’s right to turn someone away due to a positive test for cannabis. However, just as your state may soon legalize weed, the related hiring laws may begin to change.

Furthermore, the legalization of medical marijuana in more than half the country situates this issue firmly in the realm of the Americans with Disabilities Act, an already complicated piece of legislation. For this reason, you should ensure you consult legal counsel to ensure you stay abreast of changing laws. You should also work with a pre-employment screening company that can provide consulting on best practices to help you avoid litigation.

It is important to remember that marijuana is still illegal on a federal level, therefore even though state and local laws may change the federal law is yet to make that leap. Provided you are adhering to both local and national law you can handle the issue as you feel best for your organization. If you are hiring a forklift driver, you may want to screen for marijuana use, much as you might check for alcohol-related driving offenses. If you are hiring a store clerk that will not manage heavy machinery, this may not be a concern for you.

Another thing to consider is the potential job pool. If someone with a stellar resume enjoys an entirely legal-in-their-state joint from time to time, would this prevent you from hiring them? As recreational marijuana use becomes less taboo in our nation, it is only reasonable that recreational marijuana use may become more common. The more people getting high, the less likely the statistical chance of you finding the perfect candidate. For that reason, you might consider doing away with marijuana testing altogether or adopting a reasonable suspicion policy meant to only test those thought to be under the influence at work.

A reputable pre-employment screening company can help. Not only will they keep current on changes to local hiring laws, but they can also curate a suitable drug screening process for all of your companies needs and open positions.


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