Ambiguity Regarding Legalized Marijuana and Employment in CA

Ambiguity Regarding Legalized Marijuana and Employment in CA

By: Daniel Steingold | July 18, 2016

This November, California will vote on whether to legalize marijuana, which could vastly impact the workplace in the Golden State.

At present, it is common for employers to ask new hires to take a drug test, oftentimes by peeing in a cup. If marijuana is legalized recreationally— currently, it is only legal for medicinal purposes— these drug tests could be controversial, particularly if they inform hiring decisions.

Edward Yost, human resources business partner with the Society for Human Resource Management, emphasizes the potential ambiguity regarding how an employee could be penalized, stating, “The one thing that’s not clear to both employee and employer are those protections.”

He adds, “once (marijuana) is legalized, that will protect you from prosecution; however, it doesn’t protect your job.”

In other words, while using marijuana may be legal, it may still be looked at in a negative light by employers.

The fact that the California Supreme Court has ruled that an employer can refuse to hire based upon a marijuana-positive drug test has worried many.

On another note, although it is clear that recreational use would not mean that one could get high on the job, employers worry that it could affect employee performance on the job.

Parallels between alcohol and marijuana have been pointed out, as both have legal restrictions and can impair physical senses. The fact that most people are responsible, however, when it comes to separating drinking from the workplace has become an argument for legalizing pot.

While different industries put more or less emphasis upon using drug tests, they are widely practiced: a 2013 study found that nearly eight out of 10 employers screen for alcohol and drugs.

This story will likely continue to develop as we get closer to election season.

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