What new marijuana laws mean for employers

 In Legalization, Medical Marijuana, Recreational Marijuana, Regulation

On election day, voters in California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada decided to legalize the use of recreational marijuana, joining Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia.

Residents in Montana voted to roll back marijuana provider restrictions, and Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota legalized marijuana use for medical reasons. Medical marijuana is already legal in 25 other states and the District of Columbia.

What does this mean for employers?

In the states where marijuana is now legal for the first time (for recreational and/or medical purposes), employers can expect to see an increase in the number of workers that will test positive for marijuana. After Colorado legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2012, employers in the state saw positive drug tests for marijuana increase by 20 percent, compared to a 5 percent increase nationwide during the same year.

More and more companies will need to learn how to properly respond when an employee tests positive for marijuana.

Adding to employer concern is the fact that state laws for legalized marijuana, in all forms, differ from state to state. There is no uniform law to guide companies in determining which employees can be tested, how employees can be tested and when they can be tested. This can be especially confusing for employers with a workforce that spans multiple states.