How Legalization Of Marijuana Can Be Integrated Into The Employee Base

The purpose of this examination is to introduce perspectives on the growing legalization of marijuana and propose ways that this rise can be integrated into the employee base within this company. Given the nature of recreational marijuana use and the increase in positive perceptions regarding marijuana usage throughout the states as a whole, it is likely the case that a significant note will be made regarding the overall relationship between employers and marijuana users. The overall candidate pool for consideration for employment within our company is greatly affected by the rules regarding drug use, such as recreational marijuana consumption. As such, this examination will provide an analysis of potential solutions for helping minimize the negative experiences associated within this company while focusing on informative ways to present marijuana and to acclimate the practice of its consumption in an efficient way within the organization. The aim of this examination is to understand marijuana usage more and to ensure that this company is able to adequately respond and acclimate to the processes and legislation relating to marijuana that are likely to manifest themselves in the coming years.

This document describes the nature of federal regulations regarding recreational use of marijuana and the limitations that this creates on individuals within the workforce who are active users of marijuana. This will likely be used to help provide a different perspective on the use of marijuana within this company, as well as the negatives that are associated with attempting to refuse employees the ability to actively use marijuana for recreational purposes. This document is designed to guide you through the complications and issues surrounding the implementation of marijuana usage and laws pertaining directly to recreational marijuana use. Each section is designated to help provide information on the subject and show how general trends are changing in recent years towards marijuana itself.


Possession and use of marijuana is a federal crime, however the status of marijuana as an illegal drug is evolving. Paradoxically, state recreational and medical use laws are finding themselves at odds with the Federal Controlled Substance Act (Mello, 2012). Clearly, Americans are split regarding the use of marijuana, however, those who support the use is on the rise. In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2015, a little more than half of Americans felt that marijuana should be legal, while 44% supported continued criminalization (Liquori, 2016). This in turn has caused a significant shift in the overall perceptions of marijuana usage and the way in which this can affect the general public and the overall workforce.


As recreational marijuana use is legalized in more significant states throughout the nation, there is likely to be a growing conflict between the legality of its consumption for both medical and recreational purposes and the relationship that this has with the employment status and employers themselves at the establishments in which many of these people work.

To the District Manager, Operations Manager and Branch Managers,

The overall candidate pool for consideration for employment within our company is greatly affected by the rules regarding drug use, such as recreational marijuana consumption. Within the District of Columbia, it is already the case that marijuana has become decriminalized and employers are restructuring their approach to understanding marijuana use as a result. Given that many employees could be prescribed marijuana for general health-related issues, this can cause a significant level of legal and ethical complications if the company itself is not aware of the legislation and the changes that have been made to the perceptions of the drug. This can also involve other institutions such as the Worker Compensation, ADA and Unemployment Offices.

The turnover rate of the company has risen significantly due to the terminations which can occur if a person has marijuana simply in their system. As a result, it is evident that the antiquated drug policies of this company are negatively affecting many employees who otherwise directly contribute to the company's success. My proposal is in ensuring that a training program be integrated and the subsequent information provided will be used to analyze the nature of marijuana use in attempting to restructure our collective company policies in handing this matter.

Many states are legalizing marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes. Coupled with the rise of a growing commercial industry determined to increase sales by increasing their customer base; not surprisingly, employers are faced with tough decisions regarding Marijuana use in the work place. Their decisions are made tougher due to the legal landscape being unclear. Yet, the overall perception of marijuana use has continued to positively rise with many Americans becoming more openly accepting of recreational use, evident by a study conducted by Gallup above.

The legalization of marijuana and the effects on the workplace will be a growing concern for years to come, given the rise that has taken place in terms of the overall support of legalization among many individuals in the nation. Questions loom as to whether employers will have to tolerate marijuana use in their work place, as well as if they will have to pay for the use of marijuana as a pain medicine, and will employers have to pay unemployment benefits if an employee is terminated for marijuana use. This is especially concerning given the rise of marijuana use in older Americans, as noted by the American Society of Addiction Medicine below.

Despite conflicting state and federal laws, the courts have not been silent as to marijuana use in the workplace. According to Holli Hartman, council in the office of Baker & Hostetler, both federal and state courts agree, that an employer may ban marijuana use (Hartman, 2013).

Hartman goes on to state that courts in Michigan, California, Montana, Oregon and Washington, all have rejected claims by persons seeking protection under marijuana statutes.

Will employers tolerate marijuana use in the workplace?

Many employers have policies governing alcohol use, illegal drugs and drug testing. Employers would be wise to have policies that clearly state that marijuana purchased under state law allowing for recreational use or used for medicinal purposes is prohibited in the workplace. Providing clarity from the outset may deter employees from bringing suit (Hartman, 2013).

There are several states that protect employees and make having a zero-tolerance drug policy impossible, among them are Arizona and Rhode Island. Then there are employers in states that are regulated by The Drug Free Workplace Act (the ACT) which mandates that federal grant recipients and federal contractors must certify that the workplace is drug free and have policies in place toward that end (Liquori, 2016).

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation for employees with a disability so disciplining an employee using legally prescribed marijuana off-site and off duty may bring legal action (DiNome, Haverstick, & Perkins, 2014). However as of today even those arguing for protection under the ADA have been rejected.

The Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals noted that, “We recognize that the federal government’s views on the wisdom of restricting medical marijuana use may be evolving. But for now Congress has determined that, for purposes of federal law, marijuana is unacceptable for medical use. We therefore, necessarily conclude that the plaintiff’s use is not protected by the ADA” (Hartman, 2013, p.74)

Only time will tell whether employers will tolerate marijuana in the workplace. In the meantime employers would be wise to know the law, know the employers obligation, know the employees’ rights as well as the employers, and make certain that the employees know the company policy (Liquori, 2016). States that are legalizing marijuana may soon require employers to revise their zero tolerance policies.

Will Employers have to pay for the use of marijuana as a pain killer?

Prescription drug use is prevalent among Americans and on the rise, with nearly half of all Americans using at least one prescription drug at any given time. Medications, particularly pain medications, may allow an employee to continue or return to work, however, the medications may affect worker safety and productivity (Trillo, Cadiz, Bauer, & Erdogan, 2013).

Although there is ever growing, loud and persistent clamor that marijuana is a viable alternative for pain treatment, the fact is, there exist federal law that makes the use of the plant illegal. Currently FDA approval has not been sought or forthcoming. In fact, the American Medical Association and the American Cancer Society warn against the use of marijuana for any medical need (Rusche & Sabet, 2015).

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug. Schedule 1 drugs are those with no current acceptable medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule 1 drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the schedules with potential severe psychological and/or physical dependence.

In spite of what the DEA has to say, various boards are ruling that medicinal marijuana is compensable under the Workers Compensation system. (Green, & Ostrowsk, 2015). Local and national news broadcast the rise, in the over use of prescription drugs, most noticeably opioids. Doctors and lawmakers are searching for viable alternatives to pain medications and quite possible marijuana may provide a solution. At the current pace of legalization, employers and their workers compensation systems may be expected to pay for medical marijuana use to some degree.

Decades ago, the US Food and Drug Administration approved two medicines made of synthetic THC for treating chemotherapy-related nausea and AIDS wasting. Currently, cannabinoids, alone or in combination, extracted from marijuana and purified, are in clinical trials in the US. They have undergone extensive safety and efficacy requirements by the Food and Drug Administration. Such medicines may be an appropriate alternative to smoking or digesting marijuana and therefore acceptable for employers to include in their formularies, according to Rusche and Sabet.

Will an employer have to pay unemployment benefits if an employee is terminated for marijuana use?

There are Worker’s compensation laws that require an employee be given notice following a failed post injury drug test. Commonly referred to as a “rebuttable presumption.” “Rebuttable presumption means that an employee may dispute or prove untrue the presumption (or belief) that alcohol or a controlled substance not prescribed by the employee’s physician is the proximate cause (main reason) of the work-related injury” (Fiore, 2015). The burden of proof is on the employee and refusal to submit to a drug screening or testing positive may be grounds for disqualification for compensation and benefits.

Employees should be aware that under current employment laws and federal laws the use of marijuana may result in loss of employment, loss of parental rights, and loss of governmental benefits, including worker’s compensation and unemployment compensation.

Interestingly, according to Tony Fiore, the Michigan State Court of Appeals ruled in October 2014, that an employee terminated following the results of a positive drug test in which marijuana was detected, was eligible for unemployment compensation. Employers in other states may soon find themselves in the same predicament. The recurring theme throughout this review is that employers must be concerned and vigilant regarding the legalization of marijuana use.

Lastly, employers have a duty to protect all employees. Under Occupational safety and Health Administration (OSHA) general duty clause employees must have a place of employment “free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees” (Fiore, 2015). A person under the influence of marijuana at work could cause injury to themselves or the person working alongside of them. Unlike alcohol, there is no test to determine the level of intoxication of a marijuana user, although evidence of the drug remains in the body weeks after use.

Lawmakers and employers will have to walk their way through this cannabis minefield for years to come.


With many states legalizing marijuana and the rise of a growing commercial industry determined to increase their customer base, and mounting demonstrations from marijuana activist, employers are faced with tough decisions regarding Marijuana use in the work place. The legal landscape is unclear. The answers as to whether employers will have to tolerate marijuana use in their work place, pay for the use of marijuana as a pain medicine and or have to pay unemployment benefits if an employee is terminated for marijuana use is still being determined state by state. All parties effected by the use of marijuana, whether medicinal or recreational should educate themselves on the issues and when possible make their voices heard.

Recommendation for Solution

Given the nature of the developments in legalized marijuana occurring across many states and precincts such as those within the District of Columbia, it is imperative that this company introduce more formative and developed drug policies. The solution that I am proposing is integrating a series of training programs that are meant to both inform and educate the employee population on the facts of marijuana usage. Furthermore, I propose that this company focus time on reforming its policy in ways, such as removing the policy regarding termination of an employee's contract in the event that it is discovered that they have marijuana in their system. This company could take proactive steps to integrate employees who use marijuana for both recreational and medical purposes, given that it has been shown that there is some correlative effect between marijuana usage and afflictions and diseases such as depression and anxiety. Given this information, it is likely that a program could be introduced and subsequent training could be presented to help illustrate the ways that positive marijuana reform can occur. Furthermore, in the event that this company were to choose to focus on reformation of their drug policy, it could provide an incentive for employees who use marijuana to engage and proactively maintain their level of productivity within the company itself.

10 September 2019
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