Despite "legal pot" laws, employers still hanging tough

What effect are liberalized marijuana laws having on employer drug policies?

Maybe not as much as you'd think.MarijuanaPlant.flickrCC.JamesSt.John

The Society for Human Resources Management just came out with a survey of employer marijuana policies in states that have legalized it in some degree. Here are some highlights from the SHRM study:

*Of 224 employers who have operations in jurisdictions that have legalized some form of marijuana use as well as jurisdictions where marijuana is still illegal, 94 percent said that they used the same policy at all locations.

*Of the 175 employers in states that have legal marijuana for medical purposes only ("medical-only"), 80 percent said they had not changed their policies since the laws changed.

*Of the 407 employers in states that have legalized recreational as well as medical marijuana use ("medical-recreational), 69 percent said they had not changed their policies in response to changes in the law.

*Of the 128 employers who had changed their policies since marijuana was legalized, 37 percent said that their revised policies were now more restrictive on marijuana use than their prior policies. Twelve percent were less restrictive, 30 percent "clarified" their existing policies, 12 percent reported no change, and 10 percent were "other."

"Look, Honey, it's Adam Sandler!"

*Regarding exceptions to their no-drug policies for marijuana use, 73 percent of 166 employers in "medical-only" states reported that they are continuing to ban all use of marijuana. Only 22 percent made exceptions for medical use. In "medical-recreational" jurisdictions, 82 percent of 397 employers reported that they continue to ban all use of marijuana, and 11 percent made exceptions for medical reasons.

*Regarding whether employers intended to change their drug policies in light of legalization of marijuana, 69 percent of 117 employers in "medical-only" states said that they had no plans to change. Twenty-one percent intended to make clarifications. Five percent planned to make their policies more restrictive, and five percent planned to make their policies "more accommodating." In "medical-recreational" jurisdictions, 83 percent reported that they planned no changes, 15 percent said that they planned to "clarify," 2 percent said that they planned to become more restrictive, and 1 percent said that they planned to be more accommodating.


The survey consisted of random samplings of Human Resources professionals in jurisdictions that (1) legalized medical marijuana but not recreational, and (2) legalized both medical and recreational use of marijuana.

"Medical-only" states: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

"Medical-recreational" jurisdictions: Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Image Credits: From flickr, Creative Commons license. Marijuana plant by James St. John; pot smoking Adam Sandler lookalike by Cannabis Culture.

Robin Shea has 30 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
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