12 Nov California Legalizes Marijuana Use, But Employers Can Still Keep Workplaces Drug Free
California joined several other states in legalizing recreational use of marijuana by adults. Proposition 64, also known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 years old and over. The provisions related to the legalization of marijuana and workplace protections took effect November 9 — the day after the election.
Legalizing marijuana for recreational use is a significant change to current law. However, despite the passage of Proposition 64, several things will not change. For example, smoking or ingesting marijuana in public will remain unlawful, as well as smoking or ingesting marijuana in places where smoking tobacco is already prohibited. Similarly, driving under the influence of marijuana will remain illegal.
But what about smoking weed at work? When it comes to the workplace, California employers can take a deep breath of fresh air, because Proposition 64 maintains the status quo for employers seeking to maintain a drug- and alcohol-free workplace. In other words, employer policies related to drug possession, use and impairment as well as testing are not compromised with the legalization of marijuana use under Proposition 64.
Proposition 64 explicitly states that it is intended to “allow public and private employers to enact and enforce workplace policies pertaining to marijuana.” The initiative also provides that it will not be construed or interpreted to amend, repeal, affect, restrict or pre-empt:
“The rights and obligations of public and private employers to maintain a drug and alcohol free workplace or require an employer to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale or growth of marijuana in the workplace, or affect the ability of employers to have policies prohibiting the use of marijuana by employees and prospective employees, or prevent employers from complying with state or federal law (Section 11362.45 (f)).”
Therefore, even with the passage of Proposition 64, employers may continue to prohibit use, possession and impairment at work and may continue to test for use when appropriate. Proposition 64 is not intended to interfere with these workplace policies or practices.
Employers should use this time to review existing policies and remind employees not only about the company’s drug-free workplace policy and practices but also to specify that marijuana is also prohibited.
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