New York Employers Must Prepare for Marijuana Legalization

Ward Greenberg Partner Meghan DiPasquale recently authored an article in the Rochester Business Journal on how New York employers should prepare for marijuana legalization. Associate Chris Lattuca assisted with the article.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced that the legalization of adult recreational marijuana would be a legislative priority in 2019 and included in one of his budget bills a proposal to make this priority a reality. Although the New York State Assembly has not yet put forth a bill, it appears the Cuomo plan has legislative support, and details will be fleshed out over the next few months. New York employers should be preparing themselves for the impact this legalization will have on their drug policies.

Eight states and the District of Columbia now allow the use of recreational marijuana by adults, and thirty states permit its use for medical purposes. In 2014, Cuomo signed into law the Compassionate Care Act (10 N.Y.C.R.R. §1004), adding New York to the list of states that legalized medical marijuana use for certain conditions. As discussed below, since the passage of the Compassionate Care Act, New York employers have been required to revise their policies to account for the legalization of medical marijuana and, more specifically, to provide certain reasonable accommodations to those certified under the law.

Legalization of recreational use may lead employers to question their ability to test employees and prospective employees for the presence of controlled and/or prohibited drugs in their systems. However, employers still will have options, depending on the job functions of their employees and type of workplace environment they wish to foster. An initial consideration is whether ensuring employees abstain from marijuana use is a goal worth pursuing. According to the annual national Monitoring the Future Panel Study conducted in 2017, 21 percent of college students aged 19-22 reported using marijuana a least once in the prior 30 days. That number represents a 30-year high. As marijuana use increases among qualified potential employees, employers will wish to consider whether the benefits of maintaining a marijuana-free workplace outweighs the drawback of missing out on large swaths of the employee pool. In Colorado, for example, employers have started hiring individuals from other states after being unable to find Colorado residents who can pass a drug test.

Read the full article here.

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