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Marijuana legalization creates a big ol’ pot of HR issues.

Posted on: February 11th, 2015 | Category: Government Regulatory & Compliance Issues, Human Resources, Our Blog

legalized marijuana and HR issues myHR BlogExtra! Extra! Read all about it! Marijuana as an HR issue grows like a weed!

The legalization of marijuana for medical purposes is a reality in over 20 states with laws already on the books. The legalization of pot for recreational use is also now a reality in five of those jurisdictions: Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia. As this trend likely continues, the use of marijuana has become an important issue facing human resources professionals and employers all over the country.

Why would legal pot be an issue affecting HR?

Because pot use, like alcohol and certain medicines, may increase the risks of accidents on the job, including motor vehicle accidents. In fact, in a recent CNN.com article on the subject, former White House drug policy adviser Kevin A. Sabet reported that employers in Colorado are already reporting more workplace incidents involving marijuana use. HR professionals in the states where marijuana use is currently legal should develop and administer new policies regarding pot in the workplace, if they haven’t already.  The problems facing businesses in this regard are detailed in an excellent article posted on HR.BLR.com:

Unfortunately, these marijuana laws are relatively new, and there has been very little guidance for employers. Accordingly, while the majority of marijuana statues simply decriminalize marijuana use, and do not explicitly protect registered users in the employment context, employers continue to struggle with managing the uncertainties in these statutes. Making things even more difficult is that federal law continues to prohibit marijuana use, distribution, and possession for any reason.

Are employers allowed to discipline employees for medical-marijuana use? Does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) cover medical-marijuana users?

According to the HR.BLR.com article, the article explains that, at this point in the new landscape of legalized marijuana laws, questions such as these can be difficult to answer for all businesses across the board. The issues facing employers can vary from state to states, even from industry to industry, and legal issues that are arising are showing that medical marijuana use in particular is not necessarily clearly defined for the workplace. One thing is clear: no matter of what policy an employer decides to implement, there is currently no law that permits an employee to be high at work. Some employers have developed policies that allow off-site medical marijuana use for employees who are not in safety-sensitive positions, but prohibit an employee from reporting to work impaired or bringing marijuana on to the premises.

“It is important that employers make sure their employees know what the organization’s legalized marijuana policy is upfront,” says myHR Partner president Tina Hamilton, PHR. “Clearly define your policy, and get it reviewed by proper legal council and make sure it is shared with your team so that they know how illegal or improper use of all types of drugs in the workplace are dealt with by your company.”

Need help with developing and implementing solid HR policies?

Whether you need to clarify and update your current human resources policies, or need to start from square one, we can help. myHR Partner understands that it takes a strategic, broad approach to effectively manage your HR functions. It also takes knowledge, skill and time to conduct the work that needs to get done to maintain a positive, productive and profitable workforce. Our team of HR experts is here to help you achieve your goals. Email us, or call us at 610-443-0119 to discuss how myHR DirectLink Services can help your business.

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