Legal Marijuana in Oregon; What It Means for Employers

Not so long ago, Marijuana was illegal in all 50 states. Employers were fully justified in firing employees who tested positive for the substance, as those workers had broken the law. Now, in a handful of states that includes Oregon, marijuana possession, cultivation, and use are legal – within specific guidelines. Though federal law still considers the plant, and its use, contraband, the prevailing climate indicates that the state statutes will be respected. Meanwhile, employers in Oregon must figure out how to address this legal climate in their human resources policies, and employee handbooks.

Enforceable Drug Testing

Though legal, employers can still fire an employee for using marijuana, both for recreational and medical purposes. If a business finds that they desire a cannabis-free workplace, they are free to drug test their employees and dismiss them for using the plant. It may be wise, however, for employers to clarify and reinforce this policy through new language in the employee handbook and via announcements from human resources. Employees may now be increasingly exposed to marijuana at social gatherings, and they need to understand where use places them with regards to their employment. So, the new statewide tolerance does not have to include the workplace, if an employer so desires.

Illegal Use at Work

While many hip new companies lure the hottest, most creative employees with incentives such as beer in the break room, they cannot allow or provide marijuana in the same fashion. Oregon law prohibits using cannabis in public spaces, and the workplace is considered public space. Though many creative people find that cannabis use inspires deeper creativity, they cannot take a drag at work. Looser, more casual, work environments may wish to emphasize the legal implications of at-work use for their employees. Even if the employer has no anti-marijuana policy, not all employees wish to have it in their presence.

Shift in Social Mores

While it remains to be seen whether or not use will increase among all employees, marijuana is far less of a taboo than it once was. Legalization will likely encourage workers to use the plant in a medicinal fashion, or to experiment with it as a recreational escape. This change in the social fabric is one that employers will need to consider going forward. In order to attract the hottest, most creative, employees they will need to assess how their policies towards off-duty marijuana stack up in the marketplace. Furthermore, if an employer decides to fire based on legal, off-duty use, the employee may decide to pursue legal recourse. Lawyers point out that off-duty cigarette smoking, a known health risk, is protected and that may be used as precedent upon which to sue.

Need help creating new rules for your workplace? Contact Rush Recruiting & HR today

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