Uncertainty about New Jersey’s marijuana laws has employers wondering what they should do to maintain workplace safety. According to attorney Laura Link of Archer Law, many employers may have some language in their drug and alcohol policies that they may want to change, even before any legislation is enacted.
At NJBIA’s seminar “The Cannabis Economy,” Link stressed that the expansion of medical marijuana and even legalization of adult-use recreational marijuana is unlikely to dramatically increase the number of people coming to work impaired. Link will address workplace marijuana issues at NJBIA’s Feb. 15 seminar, Hard Decisions, Hot Topics and Your Legal Questions.
Currently marijuana is illegal for recreational use, but permitted for medical use if prescribed by a physician for patients with certain debilitating conditions. The Legislature is considering proposals to expand the medical use program and legalize cannabis for recreational purposes. NJBIA has secured promises that protections for drug-free workplace policies will be included in any legalization laws.
Even so, Link says there’s language that many employers likely have in their drug and alcohol policies that will need to change.
“You might have something in there that says an employee cannot have any illegal substances on the premises and cannot come to work under the influence of any illegal drug,” Link said. “While cannabis is still illegal on federal level, you might have employees who do not understand that distinction.
“Especially if the adult-use bill goes through, they’re going to think, ‘oh, it’s legal now,’” she explained. “Your policy language may not cover that.”
To clarify policies on marijuana, employers should consider something more specific.
“You may want to include language that says: You can’t do it in my building; you can’t have it in my building, and you have to let me know if you’re on it if you have a safety-sensitive function,” Link said.
As with any change to workplace policies, this should be done in consultation with a labor law attorney.
Additionally, employers are not required to accommodate use of medical marijuana in any workplace. Link, however, said that the legal system will likely review that, and employers should be prepared for changes in the future.
“The state courts haven’t taken up this issue yet,” Link said. “And I think what we’re going to see is a battle over what that language means.”