Employers can still keep ‘no tolerance’ drug policies despite Prop 1 passing

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- With Proposal 1 passing, people are wondering how that could impact them on the job.

Many employers have strict 'no tolerance' policies when it comes to marijuana. While that could change, for some it could not and you could still be fired for having any marijuana in your system at all.

“It’s been a pretty hot topic today," said Luis Avila, labor and employment attorney with Varnum Law.

Hot topic is an understatement for Avila. His phone started ringing once the proposal passed.

"Employers are concerned about what that’s going to do, if they’re all the sudden going to have a big problem on their hands of applicants and candidates looking for jobs that are going to test positive as well as employees that all the sudden might end up coming to work under the influence," said Avila.

For anyone eager to get over to a dispensary: not so fast. Avila says your employer might not give you the green light.

"The law doesn’t affect in any way an employer’s ability to test for marijuana and then to discipline and or terminate an employee for the use of marijuana," said Avila.

In fact, Michigan law doesn’t even protect medical marijuana users with documented disabilities from being fired.

"The medical marijuana act still doesn’t protect you in your job, so even if you’re under medical marijuana use, your employer could still take action against you for doing that, so that’s something you have to be very mindful of," said Avila.

Avila says no company is required to change their drug policies even when marijuana becomes legal and you can still be reprimanded or fired for using it, but he says it might benefit employers to consider changing their rules.

"You can be in trouble for testing positive, which creates a problem for employers. Right now, we have a big talent shortage. Every employer is looking to hire qualified candidates to retain the one that they have and if all the sudden they are having employees testing positive for this and they have policies in place that are zero tolerance, they might have an issue on their hands of not being able to keep talented employees.”

Avila anticipates companies who don’t change their policies to still see an uptick in their employers testing positive for marijuana. He suggests they start planning for it now.

"We’ve already seen several companies that are saying, we may want to be a little lax in our enforcement which means revising our policies, because we don’t want to just automatically discharge someone for the use of this," said Avila. "When companies draft these policies, they’re thinking about unlawful drugs, controlled substances, now that this is lawful, they’re thinking about revising them and companies and organizations are already taking those steps.”

The law could go into effect as early as next month, but likely won’t until the beginning of the new year.

Avila doesn’t anticipate companies making any policy changes until it’s officially signed into law.

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