November 23rd, 2016 | Debbie Lamb, Sterling Talent Solutions

Marijuana Reform Laws Pass In Multiple States

Marijuana Reform Laws Pass | Sterling Talent Solutions

The 2016 election brought many changes to our government from the highest office in the land to laws on the city level. According to the Washington Post, the most recent election brought the biggest electoral victory for marijuana reform since 2012 when Colorado and Washington first approved the drug’s recreational use. The voters in California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada approved recreational use of marijuana in the November 8 election. Florida, Montana, North Dakota and Arkansas voted in favor of medical marijuana use. There will be a total of 29 states allowing cannabis usage for certain medical conditions and eight states will permit recreational use, including the District of Columbia. After the election, nearly a quarter of the population of the United States lives in states where adult marijuana use is sanctioned.

Explanation of Newly Passed Marijuana Laws

There are different provisions for the use and possession of marijuana in each of the states where the voters overwhelmingly approved the laws. The Washington Post described the Florida medical marijuana amendment as having “the potential to be one of the most permissive medical marijuana regulations in the nation. In addition to diseases like HIV, cancer and PTSD, the measure allows doctors to recommend medical pot for other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”

The California initiative would allow Californians to possess, transport (within the state) and use up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational purposes and allow people to grow as many any as 6 plants. The measure, called Proposition 64, reduces penalties retroactively for those convicted of a marijuana-related misdemeanor or felony in California allowing those convicted to petition to have their sentences reduced or records expunged. California has long been seen as a bellwether by both supporters and opponents of the marijuana reform movement. The state is home to 12% of the population of the US. The size of California’s economy and the economic impact of the marijuana industry could prompt federal authorities to rethink the decades-long prohibition of the use of marijuana.

Denver, Colorado voters approved a first in the nation law by allowing willing bars and restaurants to give patrons the option to use marijuana in their establishments. Smoking pot will not be allowed inside and the business will need approval of their neighbors. Patrons to these establishments, which also include non-service establishments such as yoga or art galleries, could use pot inside as long as it isn’t smoked. The law does provide for the possibility of outside smoking areas under very restrictive circumstances.

Effect on Businesses and Organizations

The new legislation will cause organizations in the affected states to be even more diligent with updating their background check policies to maintain compliance with the new laws. Companies are still ardently adhering to their drug policies despite the relaxed pot laws for two reasons:

  1. Marijuana is still illegal under federal law.
  2. Businesses fear being found libel if an employee who had an accident is found to have used pot.

Court rulings continue to rule on the side of the employer allowing them to fire employees for using marijuana, even off of the job. As long as private employers apply their drug-free policies in a neutral manner, courts have held that banning drug use on the job is not discriminatory. If a business has a clear, concise and consistent drug policy, it is allowable to terminate an employee based on a drug test showing presence of marijuana in the employee’s system during work hours.

Review Your Workplace Drug Policy

With this year’s election results, marijuana legalization advocates could be proposing updating laws across more states and possibly even push to change the federal mandates. Because of these changes, it makes sense to ensure that your company’s drug testing polices protect your organization needs. Companies who promote a drug-free environment will need to review their policy with legal counsel, consistently apply drug testing policies across all candidates and employees and consider the health and safety of all workers in the application of the predetermined drug screening policy. It has been proven that a company’s drug polices, including a drug screening program, will reinforce the best practices in drug prevention. Having the right drug policies in place will help enforce safety standards in the interest of public health and safety.

For more information and to understand what marijuana usage legalization and how it affects the workplace download our white paper, Marijuana Legalization: Why Its High Time You Reviewed Your Company’s Drug Policy.


This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.