Legalizing Marijuana Is A 'Conflict That's Going To be Huge' In The Workplace

smoking weed pot marijuana

Photo: Kesneme via flickr

The pro-pot movement won a huge victory on Tuesday when Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalise marijuana for recreational purposes.But what does this mean for the professional world? Will it be legal for employers to fire their workers for smoking pot?

We’ll have to wait and see. 

The new law makes it OK for people to smoke in the privacy of their own homes, and there’s no telling what impact that could have on the workplace. 

“It ultimately comes down to what the company policy says,” Lori Adelson, a labour and employment attorney and partner with law firm Arnstein & Lehr, told us. 

Many who have required drug tests in the past will decide whether to continue to do so, but Adelson advised all employers in Colorado and Washington to immediately draft up a company policy so that there’s a clear understanding of what’s expected from their workers. 

For example, if an employee decides to smoke before coming into the office and is later terminated for being high on the job, Adelson said the employer may “have a stronger position” if the case goes to court because federal law still deems pot as illegal. 

“I think it’s going to be pushed and it’s going to be troubling,” Adelson said. “You’ll end up seeing this in the Supreme Court.”

Since pot is illegal in federal laws, if you’re an employee who receives any federal funding, you should carefully consider smoking at all, Adelson said. Even if you’re smoking at home, traces of marijuana remains in the body for a long period of time, and you can still be considered “high” on the job if you’re tested positive for pot weeks after you actually smoked.

This is also true if you’re a business owner renting office space in a low-income, government-owned property.

The marijuana referendum only allows smoking in private, so publicly smoking on your work break is still banned, but Adelson said it’s unknown how this will affect workers who have been prescribed marijuana for medical purposes since this could violate the Americans with Disability Act. 

“This [issue] will definitely be tested in court, but, no, I don’t think [marijuana] will ever be acceptable in a workplace environment.”

NOW SEE: 9 common interview questions that are actually illegal > 

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