In-Depth: Legal recreational marijuana and the workplace

Stephanie Duprey
Updated: March 26, 2021 11:09 PM
Created: March 26, 2021 09:55 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — New York employers are working to navigate a complicated world for when the state legalizes marijuana.

Recent reports say state lawmakers have reached a deal on legalization and could pass it next week. In some ways, this new bill would make recreational pot use similar to cigarettes or alcohol.

"There is no special protection for use of cannabis during work hours,” Nixon Peabody attorney Kim Harding said.

Employers are permitted to prohibit the use or possession of recreational pot on-site or during work hours.

"Of course an employee who is impaired at work, and cannot perform his or her duties is a result of that impairment would still be subject to discipline,” Harding said.

As the law exists now, employers cannot take action against anyone who has a medical note for medical marijuana. In this bill, employers won't have the power to tell you what you can and cannot do outside of work hours.

"Cannabis will get a little bit of heightened protection with respect to off-duty use because we can't take action or discipline employees on the basis of recreational use outside of working hours," Harding told News10NBC.

A lot of companies use drug screenings as part of the hiring process, in this bill, marijuana will no longer be flagged.

"The use of marijuana or marijuana showing up in that drug screen would not be a basis to deny or terminate or deny employment,” Harding added.  

Nixon Peabody has a cannabis practice group that stays on top of legislation like this. Attorney Lori Green, who is part of the group, says they've been working with other states like Massachusetts and California, and a few others that have already legalized recreational use. 

"The group stays on top of the legal development in the industry, state, federal laws for our clients in the cannabis space so we can learn from one another and that enables us to learn to better serve our clients,” Green said.

The only group of people that this bill would not apply to is anyone who holds a federal job like a police officer because smoking marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.


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