Late Friday, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) released long-awaited interim guidance detailing how employers may be able to terminate workers suspected of being under the influence of cannabis or other substances while on the job.
NJBIA has been the leading business voice in urging the CRC to provide workplace guidance since New Jersey legalized the use of recreational cannabis in early 2021.
The CRC’s guidance was described as a first step toward formulating and approving standards for Workplace Impairment Recognition Expert certification – but it also stated that using WIREs at all is only an option for employers.
In general, the interim guidance sates that employers cannot take action against workers solely based on the detection of cannabis in their system unless the worker is prohibited by federal contracts from using cannabis.
However, an “adverse action,” such as termination, can occur if cannabis is detected along with “evidence-based documentation of physical signs or other evidence of impairment during an employee’s prescribed work hours.
“Striking a balance between workplace safety and work performance and adult employees’ right to privacy and to consume cannabis during their off hours is possible,” CRC Executive Director Jeff Brown said. “We have been doing that with alcohol without thought.”
NJBIA Deputy Chief Government Affairs Officer Ray Cantor, who aggressively lobbied the CRC to put out guidance for employers, said the interim guidance was a positive for employers.
“We are pleased that the CRC has issued guidance which provides a path forward for employers to maintain a drug free workplace,” Cantor said. “And that includes an alternative pathway to handling reasonable suspicion cases without using WIREs.
“We are also pleased that the guidance released by the CRC today has incorporated a number of our suggestions and we look forward to working with the commission on its formal WIRE regulations, while also informing our members of their options as it relates to enforcing workplace safety.”