As of March 31st, and after years of failed attempts, Governor Cuomo has signed legislation making marijuana legal in New York. It is now legal for adults 21 and over to possess up to three ounces of cannabis for personal use in New York. Adult New Yorkers may smoke or vape cannabis wherever smoking tobacco is allowed under the Clean Indoor Air Act. People who smoke or vape cannabis in prohibited areas may be penalized with a summons and fine. It is still against the law to possess more than three ounces of cannabis, sell any amount without a license, or driving while impaired by cannabis.

Marijuana in Workplace

So how will this new law affect the workplace? Will staff now be able to take a puff during a lunch break? Will an employee receiving a disability accommodation be able to consume medically prescribed hash?

HR managers will need to proactively address this issue by updating company policy to ensure that marijuana legalization does not give employees the right to be impaired at work or entitle them to “light up” any time or anywhere they choose – especially at work.

A Closer Look

A study focused entirely on Colorado – which legalized marijuana back in 2012 showed that reported use of the drug was highest among those between the ages of 18 to 25, and was prevalent in more men than women. While not an indicator of how the rest of the country uses marijuana, the study showed that 30% of those who took part, worked in the food industry. Not surprisingly, far less usage was shown in industries that typically drug test employees, like health care and transportation. With this data in mind, employers must make it a point to have employees understand changes in their workplace policy when it comes to cannabis use (just as they would any company policy) to avoid any miscommunication. Similar to alcohol, or any other controlled substance, companies should offer training to make certain workers clearly understand what they can and cannot do in the workplace.

Addressing Concerns

With the state’s legalization of cannabis, comes new laws to keep it from getting into the hands of minors and guidelines businesses need to enforce. Today’s workplace needs to ensure a clear understanding of company policy regarding marijuana and other related substances. So how can employers know if someone is under the influence and if it’s impairing their on-the-job abilities? Well, employers will just have to start being more mindful of changes in employee performance. Employers have to address this, in the same way, the rest of the world is and it’s not by not using outdated drug and alcohol policies.

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