Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Student presentation examines employer drug testing policies in wake of marijuana legalization


This week brings the last class for my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar, which means we are having the last set of student presentations. The sixth and final student presentation slated for this week looks at employer drug testing policies after marijuana reforms. Here is how my student describes her topic (along with some background reading):

As marijuana becomes legal in more and more states, one of the biggest questions for employers is how to handle marijuana testing policies.  The ultimate goal is to maintain a drug-free workplace while also respecting the personal liberties of employees.  My paper will explore the pros and cons for maintaining strict drug testing policies and propose a solution on the best way for states to uniformly approach workplace drug testing.  My paper will analyze how legal states have already approached drug testing and provide an overview of how Amazon approaches drug testing to develop a proposal for best drug testing practices for employers.

On the one hand, maintaining strict marijuana policies is important for employers to avoid intoxication on the job that may result in accidents.  This is especially true for certain industries, such as public transit and manufacturing, where the likelihood of workplace accidents are higher.  Even in other industries, employers want to maintain a drug-free workplace in order to improve the quality of work produced by employees.  On the other hand, however, there are many downsides to strict marijuana drug testing policies.  It is more difficult to test for marijuana intoxication without also regulating off-the-clock activities.  This may result in employees feeling like their privacy is being violated when they are subject to regular drug testing because it restricts them from using marijuana in their off-work time.  In states where marijuana is legal, this can create a major conflict between employer interests and employee personal freedoms.

While the legal states have taken different approaches in regulating how employers drug test, California and Washington have adopted laws which restrict employers from firing employees who test positive for marijuana without also showing that the employee was actually intoxicated while working.  This strategy helps to maintain a balance between employer and employee interests.  Employers are able to prevent employees from using marijuana and being intoxicated at work, and employees are still able to use marijuana recreationally in their free time.  For these reasons, this is the best strategy for legal states and employers to adopt in regards to marijuana testing policies.

Background Reading:

Khorri Atkinson, Legal Weed Drives Companies to Relax Their Drug Testing Policies, Bloomberg Law (July 14, 2023).

Max Freedman, Cannabis at Work: How Employers are Reacting to the Legalization of Marijuana, Business News Daily (Oct. 24, 2023).

Work Health Solutions, The Pros and Cons of Workplace Drug Testing.

Levi Sumagaysay, California New Laws for 2024: Employees Get Protection for Using Cannabis, Cal Matters (Dec. 27, 2023).


Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues | Permalink


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