With the inauguration of President Joe Biden and the full-throated support of marijuana decriminalization behind him, legalized cannabis is likely to take a huge step forward in the next four years. 2021 will see employers review new policies as they seek to comply with the ever-changing cannabis laws at both the state and federal level. While it is still impossible to say just what will happen with the changing political landscape, there are some reasons for optimism among cannabis advocates.
Still listed as a Schedule 1 drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act, cannabis advocates will have to wait for the executive branch to reschedule cannabis. As federal changes slowly unfurl, businesses will have to pay attention to a few different ways cannabis may impact the workplace.
State-led Legalization Efforts Will Continue
Making sweeping changes at the federal level is always going to take time, even with support by Democrats to enact more lenient laws pertaining to cannabis. Still, there are enough ‘nay’ votes in Congress from both sides of the aisle that we are unlikely to see federal changes in the near term. That means that state laws will remain the focus. Places like Arizona and Montana are already seeing medicinal cannabis use joined by recreational use in the future.
Mariah Passarelli is an attorney from Pittsburgh who believes that federal legalization is still a long way off. As a result, Passarelli advocates for both employers and employees to keep a close eye on case-law in states where legalization is current or on the way in some capacity.
Impact on Employers
While cannabis use is enjoying a moment of cultural appreciation, federal laws still put power under the control of employers. Employers are not required by state law, even in places with legal recreational cannabis, to tolerate cannabis use or intoxication while on the job. Protections from the law pertaining to cannabis use are going to vary state-by-state, making it in the best interest of every party involved to discuss protection with an attorney should the need arise.
Even with slow-walking changes, employers will likely begin to change drug-testing policies due to the normalization and legalization of cannabis. For medical cannabis users, states and businesses are barred from discriminating against employees who are prescribed medical cannabis. Expect cannabis rights to increasingly become a focal point of conversations.
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