Employers Tighten Drug Policies In Face Of Pot Legalization

The push to legalize marijuana is not causing employers to mellow out. More than a third of employers that have modified their drug policies in response to new pot laws have made them more restrictive, according to a survey released Monday by the Society for Human Resources Management.

Employers in states where both recreational and medical marijuana is permitted seem to have drawn the hardest line. Eighty-two percent of respondents there say marijuana use at work is not permitted for any reason, compared with 73 percent who say so in states where only medical marijuana is legal.

In medical marijuana states, 22 percent of employers have exceptions for medical cannabis use in their drug policies, while only 11 percent of employers have medical exceptions in states where recreational use is also permitted, according to the survey.

The group surveyed 623 human resources professionals in 19 states that have legalized medical marijuana and four states, plus the District of Columbia, where both medical and recreational pot is legal.

In Illinois, where dispensaries started selling cannabis to medical patients last month, the law governing the pilot medical marijuana program states employers can’t discriminate against employees for having a patient card, but it does allow them to implement zero-tolerance drug policies, including terminating people if they test positive for pot. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Most respondents to the survey said their drug policies existed prior to legalization, and they have not made changes since. But 29 percent of respondents in recreational pot states and 16 percent in medical marijuana states say they have modified their policies.

Of those, 37 percent say they have made their drug policies more restrictive, while 12 percent said they have made them less so.

Looking ahead, 5 percent of companies in states where only medical marijuana is legal said they plan to make their drug policies more restrictive in the next 12 months, and another 5 percent said they plan to make them more accommodating. Sixty-nine percent said they do not plan to change their policies.

Job seekers who think their weed use is protected under state law may be in for a reality check. Thirty-two percent of respondents in medical marijuana states, and 38 percent in states where recreational weed is also legal, say they don’t hire medical or recreational marijuana users. Ten percent of respondents in medical marijuana states, and 7 percent in recreational states, said it depends on the position being applied for.

Source: Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz (Chicago Tribune)

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