How will employers be impacted by legalized marijuana?

Local News

(WSYR-TV) — When it comes to the workplace, recreational marijuana would be treated like alcohol if it becomes law in New York. Frank Kerbein, Director of the Center for Human Resources, explained the change.

“It would be illegal to take an adverse employment action, refusing to hire to terminate, to discipline someone for their legal outside use of cannabis,” Kerbein said. “It’s never been okay to be impaired at work, either alcohol or anything else.”

Even with a state law, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level. So zero-tolerance would still apply in some instances where positions are governed federally.

“So Department of Transportation positions, certain grants by the federal government require a drug-free workplace, there’s a Drug-Free Workplace Act, in fact. It requires zero-tolerance for cannabis in the workplace.”

Kerbein said cannabis differs from alcohol because there isn’t a way to test to see how much of it is in your system.

“We all understand breathalyzers and .08 and what alcohol does and those levels of impairment. We don’t necessarily have that technology yet. There’s not a breathalyzer for these THC impairment-inducing components of cannabis.”

He said employers could take action if they suspected someone was under the influence at work. For example, if they had slurred speech or their coordination was off, just like with alcohol. His advice for companies is to start thinking about what their drug policy is going to be. He also said both employers and employees should stay up to date on effective dates.

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