Using marijuana in NJ has nothing to do with politics. But, are local employers ready for legal weed?


Image by Erin Stone from Pixabay

In a landslide victory on election day — ok, a touch of politics — New Jersey voters overwhelmingly supported legalizing recreational marijuana. But where and when can you get it? (Asking for a friend).

And what does legalized recreational marijuana mean for local employers?

Let’s start with the first question. If recreational marijuana is legal in New Jersey, where and when can you get it? Hang on, Voltaire. The referendum isn’t effective until January 1. Plus, reported here last week that the state must establish rules and regulations for the recreational marijuana industry. We also need some folks to oversee the process. Ultimately, you’ll be able to purchase your Purple Urkle, Bob Saget OG — I Googled. Really, I did —  and other strains of marijuana from a licensed dispensary.

So, without any infrastructure in place yet, how can we possibly predict the impact this legal weed will have on employers?

Well, last week, the State Assembly introduced this legislation, which offers a glimpse into some of the workplace implications. For example, the proposed bill states clearly that:

No employer shall refuse to hire or employ any person or shall discharge from employment or take any adverse action against any employee with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or other privileges of employment because that person does or does not smoke, vape, aerosolize or otherwise use cannabis items, unless the employer has a rational basis for doing so which is reasonably related to the employment, including the responsibilities of the employee or prospective employee.

And by “clearly,” I’m clearly sarcastic.

Even my fancy law degree and subsequent years spent sharpening my employment lawyer skills can’t help me divine WTH the bill provision means. I think we’re probably talking about government contractors, federally-regulated industries, and safety-sensitive positions where being under the influence on the job could create a direct threat to the user or other co-workers. But, the “rational basis” could translate into a lot of employment litigation to figure out what “rational basis” basis.

So, what am I complaining about again?

As a practical matter, however, fewer employers are drug testing for marijuana because most companies don’t give a you-know-what about what employees do on their own time as long as they show up and do their jobs. And when unemployment eventually drops, demand will far outplace supply.

What we do know is that the law would not impact the rights and obligations of employers to “maintain a drug and alcohol-free workplace or require an employer to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, being under the influence, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale, or growth of cannabis or cannabis items in the workplace, or to affect the ability of employers to have policies prohibiting cannabis use or intoxication by employees during work hours.”

But that begs the question: is there anything that would prevent an employer from allowing employees to smoke pot at work? Presumably not. Although, workers comp carriers may develop a massive coronary.

Anyway, we’re still in the early stages here. I’ll keep you updated on the latest developments.

“Doing What’s Right – Not Just What’s Legal”
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