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Navigating Cannabis Use in the Workplace: Strategies for Employers


As medical marijuana and the non-prescription use of legal cannabis products continue to gain popularity, scenarios involving their presence are expected to rise. For employers seeking to safeguard their interests, here are some recommendations:

  1. Establish a proactive policy addressing legal substance use to safeguard job performance and safety. Tailor separate policies for safety-sensitive and less affected roles. Publicize the policy, provide a one-month grace period, then enforce it, considering the potential presence of marijuana in employees’ systems.
  2. Enforcing a no-cannabis policy in a state where its use is legal aligns with the ADA’s exclusion of protection for “current users of illegal drugs,” including marijuana federally. Compliance with federal regulations, such as those from the U.S. Department of Transportation, is allowed. However, in states with their own disability-rights laws and legal cannabis frameworks, caution is needed. Employers might have to consider cannabis use as a reasonable accommodation under state law. Disciplinary actions for legal cannabis use could lead to liability under state “lawful products” statutes in around 29 states, initially intended to protect tobacco users but potentially extending to legally sanctioned cannabis products or marijuana users.
  3. Request the employee to provide a note from a healthcare provider. Even if the use of cannabis is not prescribed, the healthcare provider may confirm the necessity of over-the-counter products for pain management, possibly recommending cannabis products. If unable to obtain a note from a healthcare provider, seek a receipt from the dispensary.
  4. Considering safety concerns, engage in an interactive process with the employee to explore potential reasonable accommodations. If the employee cannot safely perform the job while using the legal product, consider placing them on medical leave, Family and Medical Leave, or short-term disability instead of termination.

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As the prevalence of medical marijuana and the non-prescription use of legal cannabis products continues to grow, employers must prepare for an increase in related scenarios. By implementing proactive policies, adhering to legal frameworks, and engaging in open communication with employees, businesses can navigate these complex issues while protecting both their workforce and their interests. By taking these measures and others, employers can help maintain a safe and compliant working environment while supporting the well-being of their employees.

For more information on Medical or Recreational Marijuana, and whether they affect your state, visit our resource guide at the Hire Image Resource Library. If you have any questions about how to best protect your business, employees, and customers, please Speak with Our Team.

Hire Image is a division of Orange Tree Employment Screening, uniting our strengths to design a background screening program in your best interest and deliver unmatched client experience.

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