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New Jersey Becomes Latest State to Legalize Marijuana, But What Does That Mean for Employers and Employees?

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New Jersey has just joined the ranks of a growing number of states that have voted to legalize the sale and use of recreational marijuana. In November, almost two-thirds of voters said “yes” to legally making the drug available to adults over the age of 21. There are now 11 states that have fully legalized cannabis use in the U.S., and while New Jersey is not the first, it is still going to have to struggle to come to terms with what legalization means in terms of the employer/employee relationship.

The constitutional amendment that will eventually make marijuana legal in the state of New Jersey, once confirmed by the Attorney General’s Office, will allow adults over the age of 21 to recreationally use the drug. The amendment will also allow for the creation of a Cannabis Regulatory Commission to be formed, which will have oversight of recreational sales.

It also stipulates that New Jersey employers are not required to accommodate recreational marijuana use in or out of the workplace at this time. While it may be understandable that employers should not make special accommodations for employees to use marijuana at work, what about if an employee wants to use a now legal drug on their own, personal time?

Workplace Policies

With the legalization of marijuana in New Jersey, employers may be forced to start rethinking or updating their current workplace drug policies. Many employers have strict no-drug policies, but what happens now that one of those drugs is legal? What about the status of drug tests as part of employment screening practices?

These are serious questions that both employers and employees are going to have to grapple with over the next several months, perhaps even years. There is no federal framework to follow as states make up their own rules as they try to find what works.

Let’s look at some of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana. Colorado allows employers to fire employees for testing positive for marijuana, even for off-duty use. Oregon law does not impose any restrictions on employers when it comes to recreational marijuana. In Maine, employers may not discriminate against applicants or employees based on marijuana use on their personal time.

While all states stipulate that employers do not have to accommodate marijuana use in the workplace, there is a patchwork approach to how employers can and should address it when it comes to personal use in the privacy of an employee’s own home.

Marijuana and the Law

The legalization of recreational marijuana is still in its infancy, and courts are still struggling to catch up. There are examples of cases, such as Palmiter v. Commonwealth Health System, where individuals have been successful in suing their employer for firing them due to medical marijuana use. However, recreational marijuana use is a different beast entirely. New Jersey employers are going to have to quickly come to terms with how to address workplace policies and issues after an overwhelming number of voters came out in favor of legalization.

At The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks, P.C., we are always at the forefront of news and topics that may impact New Jersey employees. If you are an employee and have questions about your rights or feel that you are being discriminated against in the workplace, contact us at (856) 817-6221 today. We can thoroughly review your situation, advise you on your rights as a worker, and layout all of your legal options.