Small Businesses Bewildered By Conflicting, Fast-Changing Laws for Legal Marijuana

By Christopher Rugaber
AP Economics Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — A low unemployment fee and the spreading legalization of hashish have led many companies to rethink their drug testing insurance policies for the primary time in many years. A small however growing quantity are merely not testing for marijuana. For small companies, nevertheless, methods to deal with these challenges could also be a harder name than for greater firms.

There is a bewildering patchwork of state legal guidelines relating to medical and leisure hashish use. And marijuana continues to be unlawful underneath federal regulation. Yet smaller corporations don’t have in depth human assets or authorized departments to assist them type by means of all of it.

“There is a lot of conflict there, and many employers, they just don’t know what to do,” stated Kathryn Russo, a lawyer at Melville, New York-based agency Jackson Lewis. Recreational hashish use is authorized in 9 states plus Washington, D.C., and medical marijuana is authorized in 29 states.

Here are some questions small companies want to think about when deciding on what drug testing insurance policies to comply with:

Is it a federally regulated place, or safety-sensitive?

Employment legal professionals say these instances are the straightforward ones. If companies are regulated by the federal Department of Transportation or is a protection contractor, they’re possible legally required to check for all medicine unlawful on the federal degree, together with hashish. Similarly, if a job raises security considerations — similar to a forklift driver, an operator of heavy manufacturing unit gear, or a meat cutter — it’s in one of the best pursuits of the employer to nonetheless check for marijuana, even whether it is authorized on the state degree.

Don’t Discriminate

In states the place medical hashish is authorized, small companies more and more danger operating into authorized hassle in the event that they deny a job to somebody who has obtained a medical hashish prescription.

Until final yr, courts sometimes deferred to employers who didn’t need to rent marijuana customers, no matter state regulation. It’s nonetheless unlawful beneath federal regulation, in any case.

But three courtroom instances prior to now yr have sided with staff, forcing corporations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island to reinstate staff with medical hashish playing cards who have been fired, or whose job provides have been rescinded, as a result of they examined constructive for marijuana.

In roughly a dozen states, medical hashish customers are protected to a point from employment discrimination, Russo stated. Yet the state legal guidelines across the problem are “all different,” she stated. In Arizona and Pennsylvania, for instance, state regulation explicitly permits employers to bar medical pot customers from safety-sensitive positions, Russo stated. Other states don’t have clear guidelines.

What about staff’ compensation?

Some corporations might obtain reductions on their staff’ compensation insurance coverage premiums in the event that they conduct drug checks. If an employer is considering stopping testing, they need to discover out whether or not they would lose that low cost.

Michael Clarkson, head of the drug testing apply at Ogletree Deakins, recommends for small corporations to verify in with their insurance coverage brokers earlier than making a remaining determination.

Keep an eye fixed on the White House

In January 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked the Cole Memorandum from the Obama administration that had discouraged federal prosecutors from pursuing hashish instances in states the place the drug is authorized. That transfer recommended the Trump administration would crack down on marijuana customers and brought on even higher confusion amongst employers.

In April 2018, nevertheless, Trump promised Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner that the federal authorities wouldn’t goal his state’s hashish business. The state was one of many first to legalize leisure pot when it did so in 2014, following the passage of Amendment 64, accepted by 55.three % of voters in 2012.

Still, it’s not clear to most employment legal professionals the place precisely the administration stands.

“Your guess is as good as mine where the federal government is,” Clarkson stated.

Follow AP’s marijuana protection on-line.


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