A High-Level Discussion For Employers Administering Drug Policies and Tests While Navigating the Complexities of Multi-State Marijuana Legalization

Posted by Bray Dohrwardt | Jun 18, 2024 | 0 Comments

As the landscape of marijuana legalization continues to evolve across the United States, companies operating in multiple states face unique challenges when it comes to implementing and enforcing drug policies and administering drug tests. With marijuana legal in some states but not others, employers are finding themselves in a complex and often confusing situation. For example, most Americans live in a state where cannabis in some form is legal according to state law. (Click here for a short read from the Pew Research Center and a helpful map). In this blog article, we will explore the various challenges that multi-state companies encounter in the face of disparate marijuana laws and discuss potential strategies for addressing these challenges. Please contact the Dohrwardt Law Firm to discuss your employment policies and hear how the firm can help your business navigate compliance.

One of the primary challenges for multi-state companies is maintaining consistent drug policies across different locations. In states where marijuana is legal, employers may struggle to reconcile their zero-tolerance drug policies with state laws that permit the use of medical or recreational marijuana. This creates a legal and ethical dilemma for companies, as they must balance their obligation to provide a safe work environment with their employees' rights in states where marijuana use is legal.

Additionally, companies with operations in both legal and non-legal states may face issues related to drug testing. In states where marijuana is legal, employees may argue that they should not be penalized for off-duty marijuana use, especially if it is for medical purposes. On the other hand, in states where marijuana is illegal, companies may face pressure to implement stricter drug testing policies to comply with federal regulations or maintain a consistent approach across all locations. For example, Minnesota has added certain cannabis derivatives to its list of lawful consumable products, which then makes it unlawful in certain circumstances for an employer to take any action against an employee for off-duty cannabis use. Minnesota has amended its drug and alcohol testing in the workplace statute (Minn. Stat. Sec. 181.951) to describe whether and under what circumstances a Minnesota employer may test for cannabis, either while making a hiring decision or during employment. Of course, many exceptions and nuances apply, and Minnesota employers should consult their attorney before testing a job candidate or employee.

These conflicting marijuana laws challenge human resources and legal departments and require understanding each state's approach before taking action. Companies must navigate complex legal frameworks, including federal regulations, state laws, and court decisions, to ensure compliance while protecting their employees' rights. This often requires a nuanced approach that considers the specific circumstances of each state where the company operates.

To address these challenges, multi-state companies can consider several strategies. First, companies must stay informed about the latest developments in marijuana legalization and employment law within each state where they have a presence. This may involve working closely with legal counsel and staying abreast of changes in state and federal regulations.

Second, companies can adopt flexible drug policies that account for the nuances of each state's marijuana laws while prioritizing safety and compliance. This might involve adjusting drug testing protocols, providing education and resources for employees, and implementing clear guidelines for addressing marijuana use in the workplace.

Finally, open communication and transparency are key. Companies should candidly discuss their drug policies with employees, considering the legal and cultural differences across states. By fostering an environment of understanding and collaboration, companies can navigate the complexities of multi-state marijuana legalization while upholding their commitment to safety and compliance.

In conclusion, the legalization of marijuana in some states and not in others presents unique challenges for multi-state companies, particularly when it comes to drug policies and compliance. By staying informed, adopting flexible strategies, and fostering open communication, companies can navigate these challenges while prioritizing the safety and well-being of their employees. Please contact the Dohrwardt Law Firm to discuss your employment policies and hear how the firm can help your business navigate compliance.

The information provided is only for general information and is not meant to be legal advice.  Information on this website, including third-party links, may not include the most up-to-date information, so you should contact your attorney to discuss your particular matter. Third-party links are provided for convenience only and are not an endorsement by the Dohrwardt Law Firm.

About the Author

Bray Dohrwardt

As an accomplished attorney with over 22 years of experience, Bray Dohrwardt has built an impressive career, enabling business growth and commercial success for many companies from start-ups to large corporations and nonprofits. He focuses his practice on business law and energy law.


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Bray Dohrwardt is licensed to practice law in Minnesota and Texas. Please contact the Dohrwardt Law Firm to discuss how the firm can help you get business done.