Can Your Employees Smoke Weed?

Jan 25 2018

Marijuana jointWith many states legalizing the medical and/or recreational use of marijuana, employers are rightfully asking how these new laws affect the workplace—and specifically, how new legislation affects current and potential employees. This blog addresses some of the most common weed-related questions employers are asking, and our advice on how to navigate through this new territory. 

1. Can you still test current and potential employees for marijuana?
Yes. Because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, employers have the right to test for it and opt to terminate or not hire someone who tests positive for it—even in states where weed is recreationally legal.

2. Can employees smoke weed and keep their jobs?
That’s up to you. It all boils down to your company’s policy on drugs in the workplace. Though some states have legalized marijuana, employers are not required to employ people who use the drug if it is against company policy. Employers are responsible for creating their own tolerance policies, but they must remain consistently enforced. If you don’t have a drug policy, it would be wise to implement one.

3. If an employee has a prescription for medical marijuana, do we have to allow it?
Yes and no. In states where it is medically legal, experts recommend that employers consider making “reasonable accommodation.” This means you should examine whether having weed in your system would put the employee or company at risk. For example, a person running heavy machinery would be at a higher risk than would a graphic designer. However, employers are not required to tolerate intoxication while at work—whether the employee has a medical marijuana card or not! On the grounds of compassion though, making “reasonable accommodation” can be as simple as providing medical leave or additional time off. 

4. How should employers treat marijuana use?
According to a recent article published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), one legal expert recommended that employers treat marijuana use like alcohol use. Just as you would not permit an employee to be drunk at work, neither should you permit an employee to be high. Your company’s drug policies should address what action will be taken if current employees pop positive for weed during a random drug test, or from a drug test required after a workplace accident. Your drug policy should also state whether offers of employment will be made to potential employees who test positive for marijuana on drug screens, and whether you will consider making accommodations for people with prescriptions for medical marijuana use.

5. If a drug test pops positive for marijuana, what do you have to do?
If you have a “no tolerance” policy, you may act according to the terms outlined in your employee handbook. If you don’t, then things get messy. Legal experts recommend that you consult a state employment expert and consider the employee’s job and whether the use of weed would put the employee or company at risk.

6. Are employers more tolerant of weed use now?
It doesn’t look like it. According to a recent employer survey taken by HireRight and published by SHRM, only 5% of employers accommodate marijuana use, 39% do not, and 52% of employers do not have a policy on it.

Ask us questions about changing marijuana legislation via our online chat tool in the lower left corner of your screen. We are passionate about helping companies hire, develop, and retain smart employees and we love to share what we know!


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