There’s a lot of talk about the recent legalization of recreational marijuana use in New York State— for adults age 21 and older—and the impact on employers. TalentRise’s Managing Director Peter Petrella—along with A.J. Baynes, President and CEO of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce—was recently interviewed by WIVB News 4 Buffalo’s Kayla Green on the topic.
The marijuana drug test is a thing of the past in New York. “Essentially employers can’t test anymore for marijuana, they can’t restrict marijuana use for an employee outside the workplace and there comes an issue of impairment, so is an employee using marijuana, coming to the workplace and then not able to do their job and that’s the big question that has a little bit of ambiguity to it because how do you determine that,” Peter said.
One of the only exceptions is companies with federal contracts. These companies will still drug test because marijuana isn’t legal across the entire country, but their approach has changed. Peter noted that, “In the last six months we’ve had a couple situations where we’ve had people either convicted of a marijuana case or tested positive on the drug test for marijuana but depending on the job we’ve actually kind of pivoted in how we look at it. If it’s legal in their state we’ve started to understand that those situations can be worked around and we don’t have to be as strict if they’re not working on any of our federal contract type of work.”
So how do employers keep their employees safe at work while abiding by the new law? The employer will often need to make a judgment call. “A lot of our customer sites are in manufacturing so if someone shows up and they have to operate heavy machinery that day and they are visibly impaired in some way or even quote the smell test, we have to look deeper to understand if they are impaired because they could be creating a safety hazard at a worksite so we have to ultra careful similar to alcohol,” said Peter.
Interest in learning more? The New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) has published a list of frequently asked questions to address some of the most common situations or questions in the workplace related to adult-use cannabis and the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA).
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