legalized marijuana

Last November Michigan legalized marijuana for recreational use. This decision by the state’s voters has already had a number of ramifications for employers. Most people do not understand how legalized marijuana can affect their employment, so here we will talk about that and also how the legalization of marijuana affects the manufacturing sector.

What Legalized Marijuana Does Not Mean

Some in the workforce are under the false impression that because marijuana is now legal for both medical and recreational use that means employers must hire them or continue employing them when they use or consume marijuana products. That is not the case.

Michigan’s adult-use recreational marijuana law, the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, states:

“This act does not require an employer to permit or accommodate conduct otherwise allowed by this act in any workplace or on the employer’s property.  This act does not prohibit an employer from disciplining an employee for a violation of a workplace drug policy or for working while under the influence of marijuana.  This act does not prevent an employer from refusing to hire, discharging, disciplining, or otherwise taking an adverse employment action against a person with respect to hire, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of that person’s violation of a workplace drug policy or because that person was working while under the influence of marijuana.”

Michigan may have legalized marijuana, but the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) is still federal law, and cannabis is still prohibited under the CSA as a Schedule 1 drug. Federal employers and companies in industries regulated by the federal government or that hold contracts with the federal government are expected to administer random drug tests to their employees and test them for drug use when they are hired. If those employees test positive for marijuana, they will take action against them even if employees consumed the marijuana during their off hours or for medical reasons.

Private employers in Michigan have more leeway in their drug testing policies now because of the MRTMA, however. They can continue to enforce drug-free workplace policies that follow CSA guidelines, or they can choose to be more lenient with their workers.

Legalized Marijuana and Manufacturing

Legalized marijuana is a particularly important issue for workers in the manufacturing industry because so many of them operate heavy machinery. It can be very dangerous to drive a forklift when impaired, for example, and not just for the worker but for other workers, anyone else in the vicinity, and the company itself. The company bears the liability when an accident happens, and it’s the company that must pay for workmens compensation. Higher premiums, lost time, property damage, and downtime in the facility are additional costs the business bears if management does not establish and strictly maintain safety protocols.

No one wants to see workers hurt - not workers and not management. Unlike with alcohol, the majority of people cannot easily determine how impaired people who consume marijuana are or how long that impairment lasts. It’s a hard call for a manager to determine if a worker is sober enough to do his job if he is a regular user, and there is no breathalyzer test for weed - yet.

Workers may believe they are entitled to do what they like on their own time and that they should be able to relax and enjoy marijuana especially now that it’s legal. This is true only as far as it does not affect other people negatively. It is now on employers to make hard calls to determine if marijuana use poses a safety or productivity problem for their companies. They should not be blamed if they decide employing workers who use marijuana is too much of a risk to take.

The bottom line on legalized marijuana is that employers have the authority to fire or not to hire workers who use it. If you are looking for a job or want to keep the one you have, check to see what your company’s policy on marijuana use is and follow it to the letter. While its short term impairment effects pass fairly quickly, marijuana stays in bodily fluids for 1 to 30 days after you consume it. That means it can be detected weeks after you used, again unlike alcohol.

There are many wonderful opportunities in manufacturing right now in Michigan. If you want to be a part of this great industry, be aware of how your marijuana use could impact that.