Michigan becomes the tenth state to legalize cannabis on a recreational level, and Missouri and Utah now join thirty-one other states who have legalized medical marijuana. But what’s next and how will this affect employers?
Here is a quick summary of some of the major issues employers may face now that cannabis is legal in Michigan, Missouri, and Utah.
Michigan. Employers can rejoice in that the recreational bill leaves their right to refuse to hire or to discharge an employee intact. The act “does not prohibit an employer from disciplining an employee for violation of a workplace drug policy or for working while under the influence of marijuana. This act does not prevent an employer from refusing to hire, discharging, disciplining, or otherwise taking an adverse employment action against a person with respect to hire, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of that person’s violation of a workplace drug policy or because that person was working while under the influence of marijuana.”
Compared to some of the other recreational bills that have been passed, this one gives employers some leeway in allowing them to refuse to hire, refuse to accommodate, or discharge an employee simply for violating their drug policies. In order to obtain the protections afforded by this bill, employers that operate in Michigan must confirm that they have adequate anti-drug policies prohibiting the use of marijuana in the workplace.
Missouri. Amendment Two passed by a margin of 66 percent to 34 percent. What this means is that qualified patients who have approval from their physicians will receive identification cards from the State that will allow them to consume marijuana.
The bill affords some level of protection to employers. The bill states that a person cannot bring a claim “against any employer, former employer, or prospective employer for wrongful discharge, discrimination or any similar cause of action or remedy” based on the employer “prohibiting the employee, former employee, or prospective employee from being under the influence of marijuana at work … or for attempting to work while under the influence of marijuana.”
While this bill in theory provides employers some protections, the difficulty employers face is testing for intoxication and determining if the employee is under the influence at work. THC accumulates and slowly releases overtime, such that chronic users may test positive even after many days of abstinence. Further, the way the body metabolizes THC makes it possible that the effects of marijuana continue long after the drug ceases to be detectible via blood tests. Thus, employers need to make sure they train their supervisors on how to properly detect cannabis use. Examples include looking for visible signs of cannabis use, such as, slowed productivity, weed odor, and blood shot eyes.
Utah. Interestingly, the Utah Medical Cannabis Act is silent as to what protections employers are afforded. While current law allows employers to drug screen applicants and allows existing employees to engage in drug testing for investigative purposes, the bill seems to imply that it may allow medical card users more protections in the employment context. Under the “Nondiscrimination” section, the bill states that cannabis use does “not constitute an illegal substance.” That section also prevents landlords from refusing to lease or from penalizing a person simply for being a marijuana card holder. Oklahoma had a similar landlord provision, and there, employers could not discriminate against a person in “hiring or termination or from imposing any term or condition of employment or other penalize a person based upon their status as a medical marijuana card holder or the results of a positive drug test.” Thus, it’s likely that Utah may adopt a similar provision. However, until Utah clears the smoke, employers remain in a haze as to what protections they have. Stay tuned for growing developments.