Legal Marijuana: What Employers and Employees Need to Know

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The number of states where the recreational use of marijuana is now legal grew following last November’s midterm elections. Currently, 21 states, as well as Washington, D.C., and Guam, have taken action to legalize marijuana use, albeit with some stipulations.

Missouri, along with Maryland, joined those states approving recreational marijuana when voters approved Constitutional Amendment 3 on Nov. 8, 2022. Possessing up to three ounces of marijuana has been legal in the Show Me State since last December, and legal recreational marijuana sales could start as early as February.

Sentiments about the medical and recreational use of marijuana are likely as diverse as marijuana varieties themselves, with some rejoicing about this new privilege and others decrying the change. Regardless of your thoughts on the issue, it’s important to know where you stand as both an employer and employee when it comes to marijuana and its use in the workforce.

That’s why the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and its legal partners recently hosted a webinar for Chamber members to field questions about the new law, including how it will affect workplace drug policies and testing. You can find some good, basic information on this topic on the Chamber’s website at https://mochamber.com/news-archive/amendment-3-what-employers-need-to-know/.

As someone who works with both employers and employees, I had two main questions: 1) Does the right to use pot as a recreational drug require an organization to change its operational policies and 2) Now that marijuana is legal in so many states, does that make it okay to use while on the job?

Because the laws governing marijuana use differ from state to state, it’s wise to be familiar with your state’s legal language and stipulations. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on Missouri’s law. Based on my research, here are some of the key takeaways from this new legislation.

Similar to alcohol, which is also legal, employers can still prohibit marijuana use and intoxication on the job and take disciplinary action against employees found to be working under the influence of marijuana.

According to the Missouri Chamber of Commerce: The most important takeaway for business owners as we consider the implications of Amendment 3: employers may still maintain a drug-free workplace, which includes prohibiting employees from working while under the influence of marijuana.

How the law affects workplace drug testing policies is a little more complex, especially given that signs of marijuana use can stay in a person’s bloodstream for days or even weeks. As with any new law, it’s likely that more guidance based on legal tests and interpretations of the new legislation will play out over time.

In the meantime, it’s wise for all employers to review their policies and consult with their legal advisors on how recreational marijuana use could affect them, their employees, and their operations.

One final takeaway: Missouri law prohibits anyone from operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, both on the job and outside of working hours.

Watch for more information on this topic from the Missouri Chamber and other sources to unfold over time.

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