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February 4, 2015

Sign of the drug war times: risk-management review of state drug-law reforms

There are many diverse signs, and many diverse consequences, of our modern (retrenching?) drug war, especially with respect to state-level reform of marijuana prohibitions.  One such interesting sign and consequences arrived in my e-mail this morning via this link to this post by a risk management firm titled "Recap of Drug-Related State Legislation Passed in 2014." This helpful resource is introduced this way:

One trend that hiring managers should take note of in 2015 is the increased fragmentation of state drug test regulations.  Exactly half of all states passed legislation in 2014 that touches upon or completely regulates drug testing in some way or another.

With more and more attention being given to developments in medical and recreational marijuana laws, it may be hard to imagine that the United States is not trending away from drug testing in the workplace.  It is true that public opinion about certain controlled substances is shifting, but legislation is still being passed that creates provisions for drug testing employees, banning synthetic substances, and penalizing intoxicated motorists.

The diversity of laws and court decisions produced in 2014 is proof that the line between pro-employer and pro-employee is vague and becoming more difficult to draw-out.  As laws in some states provide new “rights” to individuals to consume intoxicating substances, other laws in those states as well as other places reinforce the rights of employers and citizens seeking to ensure safe workplaces and communities.

I am not, of course, an expert on labor and employment law. But this posting provides perhaps more evidence that labor and employment lawyers need to be experts on modern drug law reforms in order to serves their clients effective.

February 4, 2015 at 10:41 AM | Permalink


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This is an interesting angle. It would seem that generally just because a substance (e.g., marijuana) is legal for recreational use does not mean you have an absolute "right" to do it without having it affect your relationships with other private parties. I don't see why a private company couldn't still say "we don't employ pot smokers."

But it does get a little more complicated if you are dealing with a situation where the employee is using marijuana for medical reasons (or perhaps religious reasons)...

On the other hand, as a policy matter, even with regard to recreational use it seems sort of arbitrary to delineate which legal, intoxicating drugs your employees can enjoy on their off hours and which they can't. I mean, obviously being under the influence of anything during work hours is bad. But what is the difference from the employer's perspective between smoking a joint the night before work and drinking a six-pack, assuming that no laws are being broken? (I am leaving aside the problem of state vs. federal law here...)

Posted by: anon | Feb 4, 2015 11:18:25 AM

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