Pre-Employ Blog

Employees, Marijuana and Your Company

Posted by Bob Mather on December 13, 2016

What is a human resource manager to do when new or current employees proudly proclaim their use of recreational drugs? The answer may simply be to continue with what you have been doing.

Recreational use of marijuana is now legal in California, but the new law states that employers still have the right to maintain a drug and alcohol-free workplace. Employers can keep policies that prohibit the use of cannabis by employees and prospective workers, according to a Los Angeles Times.

Man smoking“The problem that California employers will have... is [that] you have a state law that allows uses for recreational purposes, but of course you still have the federal law that makes it illegal,” said Michael Kalt, partner at law firm Wilson Turner Kosmo and government affairs director for the state council of the Society for Human Resource Management organization. processes thousands of pre-employment drug screens for employers across the nation with a seamless integration to all major laboratories (Quest Diagnostics, labcorp, Escreen, etc.).

A standard drug screening (called a 5-panel test) will test for five different substances — cocaine, amphetamines, PCP, opiates and marijuana with many employers upgrading to a 10-panel test that includes: Amphetamines (1000 ng/mL screen), Barbiturates, Benzodiazepines, Cocaine Metabolites, Marijuana Metabolites (50 ng/mL screen), Methadone, Methaqualone, Opiates, Phencyclidine, Propoxyphene

It appears that most employers, particularly companies in “safety-sensitive” transportation industries, such as trucking, as well as fields that deal with heavy machinery, like construction firms and businesses that contract with federal government are especially unlikely to loosen policies, lawyers said.

Aerospace giant Boeing Co. said in a statement that its policies on marijuana usage are not affected by the state law that has legalized marijuana, citing its work with the government. “As a federal contractor, The Boeing Company's Drug Free Workplace policy is based on federal standards which define marijuana as an illegal drug,” the company said. “Therefore use of marijuana by Boeing employees is prohibited.”

According to the LA times story, other employers have experienced in Colorado or other marijuana friendly states. Bob Funk, chief executive of staffing agency Express Employment Professionals, said finding skilled workers such as electricians and welders is already a nationwide problem and is further compounded by alcohol and marijuana tests.

Screening for marijuana has always been an issue, he said, but it has become “more acute because of the legalization of it. We’re having a challenge finding those good people in those states."

Though Quest Diagnostics has gotten some inquiries from companies in Washington or Colorado that were interested in changing their employee drug tests, only a “handful” of those ended up doing so, Sample said.

One cannabis company in Colorado eliminated its drug policy all together. Open Vape once had a “boilerplate” human resources policy on drugs, though without any references to marijuana, said Chris Driessen, company president. But after Colorado legalized recreational marijuana sales in 2014, Open Vape decided to take another look at its policy.

“It didn’t really reflect our values as a company,” Driessen said.

The company replaced it with a strict impairment policy, in which employees that are impaired in any way — whether that’s because of drugs, sickness or lack of sleep — are encouraged to go home and return when they’re rested.

“It does not vilify or demonize any form of drug use,” Driessen said. “If there continues to be an issue, then we certainly do address that and intervene, but we try in every way possible to intervene and reach out, than discipline and escalate the HR process.”

He said the company occasionally has had to step in and “bring people back into the flock,” but that there has not been a major disciplinary infraction.

So regardless of your personal feelings on the use of marijuana for recreational use, the employment decisions you make in California are a bit more complicated than before.

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Topics: Drug Testing