Evolving Marijuana Laws and How They Impact Hiring Practices

, , | September 1, 2022 | By

Marijuana laws are dynamic, meaning they change as time progresses rather than remain static. The changing marijuana laws have made hiring that much more challenging. Schools, nonprofits, YMCAs, parks/rec departments, businesses, and other organizations have found it difficult to keep pace with the changes. Add in the fact that each state has its own unique marijuana laws, and employers are even more confused as to how to best approach this fluid situation.

Marijuana’s Impact on Hiring

Employers are challenged with navigating the intricacies of state and federal government law in the context of marijuana and hiring. Though marijuana is still considered to be an addictive and dangerous drug from the perspective of the federal government, more states are legalizing the plant for medical and recreational use with each passing year.

Employers are still legally permitted to test for illegal substances, though those laws are being altered in states where marijuana has become legal for recreational or medicinal purposes. At the moment, medical marijuana is legal in 39 of 50 states. Marijuana is also legal for recreational purposes in 18 states. These numbers are likely to increase in subsequent years simply because the majority of United States citizens now favor the legalization of marijuana for recreational and medicinal use.

As an example, the state of New York has legalized recreational and medicinal marijuana. Though recreational marijuana is not yet available at dispensaries taxed by the state, the law is written in a manner that empowers Native Americans to sell recreational marijuana at spaces designated as reservations.

Furthermore, the state passed the Adult Use Cannabis And The Workplace – New York Labor Law 201-D, making it illegal for employers to screen prospective hires for marijuana. In short, employers in an increasing number of states are no longer permitted to test prospective employees or current employees for cannabis unless allowed to do so in accordance with the language of labor laws.

The Impact of Marijuana Extends Beyond the Point of Hire

Determining whether it is legal to test prospective hires and current employees for marijuana is only one piece of the puzzle presented to employers. Employers are also tasked with keeping their metaphorical finger on the pulse of court decisions and statutes that detail the nuances of the law, including background checks and criminal record searches. Creating sensible workplace policies regarding substance abuse adds even more layers of complexity.

Employer responses to changes in marijuana laws differ by state and each unique organization. Some employers are maintaining or implementing zero-tolerance marijuana policies, yet others in states where the plant has been legalized cannot implement across-the-board anti-marijuana policies. However, the vast majority of businesses in states where marijuana has been legalized for recreational and/or medicinal use are revisiting their policies pertaining to marijuana.

The plain truth is that it is becoming socially normative to enjoy marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes, and employers are responding accordingly. Some even go as far as arguing it is a meaningful competitive advantage for employers to loosen restrictions on marijuana use, completely eliminate marijuana testing for hire, and eliminate marijuana testing after employment.

Marijuana Use Is Still a Red Flag for Certain Positions

Though society is arguably progressing toward being more tolerant, open, and inclusive, increasing coherence isn’t completely universal. Society has acknowledged and likely always will acknowledge that marijuana use is a hindrance to professions that require sound judgment and hand-eye coordination to safeguard the greater good. Examples of such jobs include:

  • Pilot
  • Surgeon
  • Childcare provider
  • Bus driver
  • Truck driver

As a result, labor laws are written to empower businesses and other organizations that employ such professionals to test them for marijuana and other substances that compromise judgment or motor skills despite the fact that doing so is illegal when hiring for other positions.

In the end, the nuanced language of state and federal laws matters most in the context of marijuana’s impact on the hiring process. If the law at either level calls for the mandatory drug testing of an individual performing in the role of a certain capacity, such as those highlighted as examples above, that individual must pass a drug test to secure and maintain employment.

Background Investigation Bureau Is Here for Your organization

Are you an HR professional, administrator, or manager? If you work in corporate HR, recruiting, or any other similar capacity, BIB is here to make your job that much easier. We help educational institutions, non-profit organizations, rec centers, and organizations of all different types find the right employees.

Tap into our employment screening services in the form of drug testing, background checks for employment, and occupational services, and your organization’s personnel will emerge as a strength that ultimately advances the collective interest. Reach out to us today at 704-439-3900 to learn more about how we can help your organization reach its potential.