How Changes to Marijuana Laws Will Affect Hiring Practices

Whether we like it or not, the laws related to marijuana are changing. There are already several states that have legalized it’s use to varying degrees, while as many as twelve more will vote on marijuana related legislation this year.

As the states that have already legalized marijuana’s use continue to record neutral or positive results, it becomes more and more likely that someday in the not too distant future, marijuana use will be legal throughout most if not all of the US. Again, personal feelings on that vary widely, but what won’t change is the fact that your hiring policies will have to adapt to the new laws. Here are a few things you might want to start thinking about.

Complicating Pre-Hiring Drug Testing

Until now, pre-hiring drug testing has been a simple matter and an integral part of employee background screening. Employees consent to the testing, they undergo the test, and if they test positive, they’re taken off the list of potential hires. However, since marijuana can stay in the system for a relatively long time (anywhere between 10 and 90 days), if it becomes legal, it may muddy the waters when it comes to interpreting results.

After all, if you can’t tell when someone indulged in marijuana, and it’s legal to do so, how do you decide how to treat a positive result?

Trickier Drug and Alcohol Policies

Most companies these days have drug and alcohol policies these days, and most are fairly straightforward. Drugs are banned completely, while alcohol use is allowed, but not in the workplace.

If marijuana use becomes legal, companies will be forced to rewrite their policies to reflect that change. If it’s legalized for medical use only, the policies will become even more complex, because they will have to take medicinal use into account.

Difficulty Evaluating Prior Charges

So far, it’s been fairly simple to evaluate employee background screening results that included drug charges, however, if marijuana does become legal in your state, you may be forced to rethink your approach to old charges related to marijuana, and you probably won’t be able to use them to exclude a candidate automatically.

A New Discrimination Pitfall

If marijuana use does become legal in your state, and you do continue to eliminate candidates due to marijuana use or criminal histories related to the drug, you may find that you’re the target of discrimination related lawsuits for doing just that. In fact, you may well have to prove that your decisions are relevant to the hiring process, just as you currently do with criminal records, disabilities and other personal issues.

At the moment, the changes to marijuana legislation haven’t had a huge impact on workplaces, but some day, there’s no doubt that it will. While employees still won’t be able to come to work under the influence, or light up in their cubicles, there’s a good chance that how you hire (and what you can fire for) will change at some point.

Rather than pretending it won’t happen, now may be the time to start thinking about your employee background screening policies and how you’re going to change to suit the new laws.

 

 

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