Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Marijuana Legalization Presents Predicament for Employees

By Ellen Chang

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Partaking in smoking marijuana where it is legal recreationally is now a viable option for adults 21 and up, but your employer may not agree.

Even if you live in Colorado or Washington where recreational use of marijuana is legal for adults, employers can still fire you if they have a zero tolerance drug policy, said Liza Getches, a partner at Moye White, a Denver law firm.

"Even though it is legal in Colorado and you could have smoked marijuana several weeks ago on your time, it can still show up on a drug test," she said. "Your employer can legally fire you and there is nothing you can really do."

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If you indulge in smoking cannabis during a trip to Colorado or Washington, but live in the other states where it is illegal to smoke the drug recreationally, the law is not on your side. If you are faced with a random drug test and it comes back positive, you could still lose your job.

Some industries have more stringent requirements, because they have contracts with the federal government, so employees of airlines are required by the Federal Aviation Administration to undergo mandatory drug tests, Getches said. Even if you are a contractor working for the government and your job is driving heavy trucks or machinery or you work at a factory or plant, you will probably undergo random drug tests due to regulations set by the Department of Transportation.

If your Colorado employer does not have a policy regarding drug use and you are fired for lawful off-duty drug use, then the dismissal would likely not be held up in court, she said.

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