Beware of Legalized Marijuana's Impact on Your Company

In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the recreational use and sale of marijuana. Since then, two other states and the District of Columbia have followed suit, while 18 others have legalized medical marijuana. Proponents tout the advantages of being able to regulate, tax, and test marijuana. But what's the impact on companies, particularly in relation to drug-free workplace policies?

Employees testing positive for marijuana increased more than 14 percent in 2014, and marijuana continues to be the most commonly detected illicit drug. Usage increased even more in states where recreational marijuana is legal. Companies are conflicted as the influence of marijuana increases concerns about absenteeism, productivity, and workplace safety, yet employers are uneasy about challenges to drug-free workplace rules in states where marijuana is legal.

Currently, marijuana is classified (along with LSD, heroin, and ecstasy) as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Even though many states have legalized marijuana for medical use, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration considers marijuana and its active ingredient (THC) illegal. In states where recreational use of marijuana is legal, individual possession amounts must be within state law.

Enforcement of marijuana laws is the responsibility of both the state and federal government, however, the federal government relies on states to enforce at the local level. The federal government focuses most of its resources on going after traffickers and trafficking rings.

The legalization of marijuana can have these consequences in the workplace:

  • It will affect your drug policy.
  • It may impact safety of employees, suppliers, and customers.
  • It may affect your hiring procedures.
  • It can impact your standing with the federal government.
  • It could affect your insurance.

As more and more states move toward legalization of some form, employers should still aim for a safe workplace. I think it's safer to have a policy that says you prohibit the use of illegal drugs, including any metabolites, in an employee's system. Period.

An infographic available from Assurex Global, an exclusive partnership of the most prominent independent agents and brokers in the world, explains the current status of the drug throughout the United State and how it could affect your company – plus it provides tips on how to inform your workplace drug policies in light of the legalization trend.

Paul Bittner ([email protected]) of the Labor and Employment Law Group of Ice Miller in Columbus, Ohio, created this article in collaboration with Assurex Global, an exclusive partnership of the most prominent independent agents and brokers in the world. Bittner is a partner and vice chair of the Labor and Employment Group for the law firm Ice Miller ( who has been practicing since 1993 with an emphasis on labor and employment law.

Posted on May 04, 2016