Effective May 25, 2022: Adults age 21 and older can legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use. They may also grow up to six cannabis plants (only three of which can be mature), along with possessing up to ten ounces for personal use, at their primary residence. Recreational sales will begin in the state on December 1, 2022. The sweeping legislation goes further by providing for the automatic expungement (by July 1, 2024) of any prior conviction for marijuana possession that is now decriminalized. An expedited process is also available for anyone who wants to have their record expunged sooner.
What Does the New Marijuana Law Mean for Rhode Island Employers?
Under the new law, employers are not required to accommodate the use or possession of marijuana, nor are they required to accommodate employees being under the influence of marijuana, at the workplace or any other location where the employee is performing work, including from home or another remote work site. Employers continue to be permitted to refuse to hire, terminate, discipline, or take other employment action based on an employee’s violation of a workplace drug policy. However, they are prohibited from taking disciplinary action against an employee “solely for an employee’s private, lawful use of cannabis outside the workplace and so long as the employee has not and is not working under the influence of cannabis.” Exceptions include:
- if off-duty use is prohibited by the terms of a collective bargaining agreement,
- if the employer is a federal contractor, or
- if the employer is otherwise subject to federal law or regulation and failure to terminate or discipline the employee would cause the employer to lose a monetary or licensing benefit.
Additionally, if an employee works in a job that is “hazardous, dangerous or essential to public welfare and safety” (i.e., operation of an aircraft, watercraft, heavy equipment, heavy machinery, commercial vehicles, school buses or public transportation, the use of explosives, public safety first responder jobs, and emergency and surgical medical personnel), an employer may implement policies prohibiting the use or consumption of marijuana within the 24-hour period prior to a scheduled work shift or assignment.
Once again, there is no way for an employer to test the presence of marijuana within only a 24-hour period. As such, enforcement of this policy may prove challenging. Further, this provision of the law does not override the fact that drivers of commercial vehicles subject to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s drug and alcohol testing regulations are prohibited from using marijuana at any time and will be disqualified from driving if they test positive.
Employers are also impacted in that they may not require an employee to disclose a sealed or expunged offense unless required by law.
Rhode Island employers should review their current drug testing policies, and make any necessary adjustments, to ensure they are in compliance with the new law.
For more information on Medical or Recreational Marijuana, and whether they affect your state, visit our resource guide at the Hire Image Resource Library.