Washington State passed Initiative Measure 502 which permits the production, sale, and use of recreational marijuana by individuals over the age of 21.
In addition to a recommendation to employers to be mindful of safety, Paula A. Barran and Iris K. Tilley of Barran Liebman remind us via electronic alert that organizations have not been limited in their right as employers to discharge an employee for the use of medical marijuana in the past. As such, the recreational use of marijuana will not prompt employers to “make changes to their substance abuse policies” either.
The passing of the measure will certainly assist in changing social perception of the drug. The majority voted to pass it not only in Washington but Colorado as well. This exhibits a significant change already in the last several years. As this perception continues to change, we may see more employers accepting of the drug’s use so long as it is done outside of work and does not impact work performance, similar to policy regarding the use of alcohol.
According to Joanne Deschenaux, J.D., SHRM’s senior legal editor, the most recent decision on a marijuana-related case arrived on September 19, 2012. The case, given to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, surrounded the use of medical marijuana as related to a potential wrongful employee termination. Ultimately no charges were filed against the employer and the employee was let go. Deschenaux also reminds us that “previous court decisions concerning the laws in California, Montana, Oregon and Washington also concluded that the laws do not apply to employment.”
Ultimately, whether your organization is located in Washington or elsewhere, it’s of utmost importance to have a clear drug policy and to be consistent in the enforcement of that policy. Ideally, these should be detailed in your employee handbook and explained to new-hires as soon as possible.
For more information on drug policy and your business, human resource consulting, or employer programs contact Xenium HR at 503-612-1555 or visit www.xeniumhr.com. This post is intended as information only and is not a substitute for legal advice. Xenium HR is a professional employer organization specializing in strategic HR partnership with small and mid-sized businesses in Portland, Oregon.
Image courtesy of Christopher Titzer via Flickr Creative Commons.