Last updated: September 14, 2020
The internet is buzzing! There’s likely to be a vote to end federal marijuana prohibition on Wednesday! Of course, it’s not as if the bill materialized out of nowhere this week. Congressman Jerry Nadler and Senator Kamala Harris introduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE) of 2019 back in July.
The MORE Act would remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act. Moreover, it will provide funding through designated programs for people and communities adversely affected by the war on drugs. Lastly, if passed, the law calls for the repeal of immigration-related penalties for marijuana offenses. It also provides for resentencing and the expunging of federal records for those with marijuana convictions.
Of course, advocates for marijuana legalization are ecstatic. Pro-marijuana sites are putting out the call for pot smokers to contact their state government officials en masse. We’ve seen claims that this day has been in the making ever since President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 making marijuana an illegal substance. Congress replaced the law in 1970 with the Controlled Substances Act which included marijuana on its list.
Are they noting the numbers?
The federal government has obviously been turning its head in regard to marijuana legalization and reform. States voting to legalize medical and recreational use have met with no consequence even though the drug remains illegal at the federal level. Moreover, there are other indications that the federal government may be planning to take a step back where marijuana is concerned. Senator Elizabeth Warren entered a bill into Congress in June 2018 also calling for the removal of marijuana’s Schedule 1 classification. The STATES Act will allow marijuana regulation at the individual state level.
It’s obvious that the American public is in favor of marijuana legalization. Voters continue to make their voices heard in states placing marijuana issues on the ballot. An October 2019 Gallup poll showed that 66% of adults polled nationwide believe that pot should be legal. They reported that the number hadn’t changed since the 2018 poll.
Employers operating within states that have legalized marijuana may not have the federal government standing at their side much longer. To date, employers have every right to keep marijuana on their employee drug tests due to it being a Controlled Substance. If the government removes its classification, employers will be forced to abide by the laws of the state.
While no state forbids employee drug testing, the laws differ by state. We don’t even have to mention the chaos that may ensue on an intrastate level! Employers operating in more than one state will surely be jumping hoops to stay in compliance among them.
Furthermore, the State of Nevada and New York City have banned marijuana from pre-employment drug tests that take effect next year. This could be opening the door for others to follow suit. This causes some to wonder, “Will totally banning marijuana from employee drug testing be next?”
Keep the horse in front of the cart
Advocates of the drug want marijuana removed from employee drug tests in those states where it’s legal—either medically or recreationally. However, employees impaired by marijuana use pose a risk in the workplace whether they’re “allowed” to use it or not. They’re thought process and reaction times are slowed down. They may exhibit impaired motor skills and trip or fall into something or someone causing an accident.
The problem is that, unlike alcohol, there is no test for current impairment. Without that capability, employers feel they have every right to keep current test standards in place. They feel that even though marijuana drug metabolites remain in the system far longer than the amount of time someone is impaired after use, it’s illegal at the federal level so it should never be found in someone’s system.
Legalization at the state level and no regulation at the federal level means problems for employers. For instance, in regard to banning pre-employment drug testing, advocates scream that employers are infringing on an employee’s right to privacy if they test them for pot before they even work there. Who’s to say this won’t get pushed even farther if there is no federal regulation to stand on?
Once we can test for current impairment this issue will become a thing of the past. There are several companies working on a marijuana breathalyzer. In fact, both a Canadian company and one in the United States claim to have one in the testing phases. It may not be much longer!
Once employers can detect current marijuana impairment there will be no need to keep the old test panel in place.
We’re compelled to blow the horn too
What will the removal of marijuana prohibition mean for your company? If you live in a state that has legalized the drug, you’ve undoubtedly formed some thoughts on the matter.
Will the MORE Act come to a vote tomorrow? Will it pass?
We’ll know shortly. In the meantime, if you haven’t voiced any concerns we recommend you do so—immediately! Contact your state senators and speak up! They may be leaning toward the voice of their constituents in regard to marijuana legalization and reform, but you’re a constituent too. More importantly, you’re responsible for many of their other constituents while they’re on the job.
As an employer, your largest responsibility lies in the safety of those you employ. People with families who love them and who have homes to support. No one should unknowingly be at risk because their workmate uses drugs.
Marijuana legalization isn’t going to disappear. A test for current impairment will make the road less rocky. For now, though, we totally understand the value of keeping marijuana test panels included in the company drug test.