The New Marijuana Laws
This Information is from Chamber Member : Hinman, Howard, and Kattell, LLP-
After years of discussion, New York has finally legalized marijuana (cannabis) for recreational use by adults age 21 and older. The new statute contains a variety of provisions relating to the licensing and distribution of cannabis. It also contains information on cultivation and possession for personal use, provisions on decriminalization of the possession and distribution of marijuana, as well as changes to the Family Court Act and Penal Law.
Employers will not be surprised to learn that there are provisions applying to them tucked into the lengthy bill as well.
The law amends existing Labor Law Section 201-d to prohibit discrimination against employees on the basis of the use of cannabis in situations in which all of the following are met:
- Use is before or after work;
- Use is not on the employer’s property; and
- Use does not involve employer’s equipment or other property.
The law also prohibits any “occupational or professional licensing board or office” from discriminating against a person for any activity permitted under the statue.
There are caveats to the anti-discrimination provision as it relates to employers. First, the law specifies that employers are not required to allow employees to be “impaired” while at work. Impairment is defined as “the employee manifests specific articulable symptoms while working that decrease or lessen the employee’s performance of the duties or tasks of the employee’s job position, or such specific articulable symptoms interfere with an employer’s obligation to provide a safe and healthy work place, free from recognized hazards, as required by state and federal occupational safety and health law.”
Second, the law contains two exceptions related to an employer’s necessary compliance with federal law and federal contracts. These include allowing an employer to discriminate on the basis of use if “the employer’s actions were required by state or federal statute, regulation, ordinance, or other state or federal governmental mandate” or “the employer’s actions would require such employer to commit any act that would cause the employer to be in violation of federal law or would result in the loss of a federal contract or federal funding.”
Employers will want to review their Drug Free Workplace Policies, Drug Testing Policies, and related practices for compliance. In particular, employers with federal contracts will want to understand what is required as opposed to what they may wish to do. For example, while most federal contracts require a Drug Free Workplace Policy, the policy requirements do not typically apply beyond the actual workplace and do not typically require any particular drug testing or penalty requirements. By contrast, employees governed by the rules will still not be able to use marijuana because that agency has taken the position that federal drug testing rules will still bar employment and work by employees who cannot pass their drug testing requirements (which include a prohibition on marijuana use).
Employers will also want to train supervisors on what “articulable symptoms” of impairment at work are. The statute makes clear an employer will need to have documentation of the impact on performance or safety at work in order to discipline or discharge an employee for impairment at work.
Employers would do well to remember that the Compassionate Care Act (New York’s medical marijuana statute) remains in effect. Employers are still required to consider whether they can make reasonable accommodations for employees who are certified patients under that statue.
Employers will also want to watch for any regulations from the newly created Cannabis Control Board. The statute gives broad authority to the Board to regulate all aspects of the new recreational marijuana law.
WANT TO KNOW MORE? Join us for virtual webinar on Thursday May 20th at 9:00am– with Dawn Lanouette, LLP
Free to Chamber Members, $20 for non-members: click here to register: https://members.otsegocc.com/events/register/438