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Colorado began legal pot sales on January 1st. But what appears as a double edge sword, recreational pot use might be legal but employers still reserve the right to terminate employees for using marijuana. In Colorado, legal adults may purchase, possess and consume pot but State Law gives employers full authority to drug test and terminate employees at will.
A dual standard now exists in Colorado and creates a very confusing scenario which is bound to be tested in courts. The Colorado U.S. Attorney and top federal prosecutors have failed to address the issue.
Colorado approved Amendment 64 and the federal government is taxing, and profiting from, the sale of marijuana. So how do companies reserve the right to terminate employment of an employee who is recreationally smoking marijuana?
While marijuana users are excited about the passing of Amendment 64, they have overlooked the fine print. In short, people can still lose their jobs if they are smoking weed on duty or off duty. Drug testing cannot conclude with accuracy whether people are smoking on or off the job and the majority of companies still have a strict no drug policy.
From a medical standpoint, the active ingredients in marijuana can linger is someone’s system for weeks. It is also unclear how the after effects of marijuana use effect job performance over time. One thing is clear; employers do not wish to test these boundaries and fear litigation if an employee makes a mistake while under the influence of marijuana.
Colorado’s Amendment 64 clearly gives employers full discretion in setting marijuana policies. Companies are allowed to prohibit medical marijuana as well.
It is highly recommended that each employee review Amendment 64 and other state laws that fall into this category. Employees should also check to see if their employer has a lawful off-duty activity statute to ensure compliance. The legalization of marijuana seems to be outpacing human resource and company guidelines. This issue will surely play out in the Supreme Court. On the ground level, we must all ask ourselves what role does marijuana have in the work place? Would you buy a car from a company that allowed its employees to be high? Would you allow a doctor to perform surgery on you, if he was stoned? If you bought marijuana legally, would you allow it to be accessible by your children? If marijuana is truly a gateway drug, are you setting yourself up for failure?
These are all great questions that need to be answered before we create future generations of addicts.