Marijuana in the Workplace: What Happens When Business Managers in Legal-Use States “Just Say ‘No’”?

By James Ballot, I.I.I. senior advisor, special content projects

The conversation about marijuana use has evolved. Once, in the not too distant past, we (meaning our appointed civic leaders, parents and other authority figures) had the luxury of taking an absolutist stance about weed. Fast-forward to today, and the discussion is mostly a constructive exchange between or among parties invested in positive outcomes, and willing to embrace wide-ranging points of view.

Marijuana users—particularly persons permitted lawful therapeutic use of cannabis—are both empowered and motivated to pursue legal protection from discrimination potentially caused by employer “zero tolerance” policies.

So, what’s an employer to do? In “Marijuana, the Workplace and EPLI – Clearing the Haze,” Mindy Pollack, J.D., Product Specialist and Vice President in Gen Re’s Treaty department, lays out a few hypotheticals to clarify the situation (i.e., legal use of cannabis by new hires and employees). She also identifies solutions like EPLI policies that offer coverage against claims, as well as guidance for how employers can tailor conduct bylaws to better fit the new realities as legal marijuana use becomes the norm.

In short, the courts are split on discrimination claims related to marijuana use. That leaves employers with no single answer when the marijuana question comes up. Add to that the variations in state laws and workplace scenarios, and you have even less clarity.

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