States have been busy when it comes to marijuana laws. Before the mid-2010s, employers tended not to worry about state marijuana laws because of marijuana’s illegal status under federal law. However, those days are over, and state marijuana legalization laws continue to affect how employers can run their workplaces.
In November 2020, voters in five states (Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota) voted in favor of legalizing medical and/or recreational marijuana. Since then, there have been several developments within the marijuana legalization world that employers may want to keep an eye on as they move forward in 2021.
On November 3, 2020, five states had initiatives on the ballot to legalize the recreational and/or medical use of marijuana, and all five initiatives easily passed. Arizona, Montana, and New Jersey voted in favor of legalizing the possession and recreational use of marijuana for adults aged 21 years and older. In addition, South Dakota became the first state to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana at the same time. Mississippi voted to legalize medical marijuana. Employers may want to consider the impact of these new laws, as well as watch for new developments.
In the past several years, marijuana legalization has become an increasingly difficult issue for employers to navigate. Marijuana legalization raises challenging workplace questions related to drug testing, disability accommodation, workplace safety, hiring, and employment termination, among other issues. Because of the fast-evolving nature of marijuana laws, and the wide variance in laws and protections from state to state, employers have struggled to keep up.
On April 27, 2020, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) released its Critical COVID-19 Guidance Standards for Hospitality Reopening. The FRLA, with input from its restaurant subject matter expert team, developed the guidance in order to safely and expediently reopen restaurants to combat the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 24, 2020, upon the request and recommendation of Mayor Randall Woodfin, the Birmingham, Alabama City Council unanimously adopted a “shelter in place” order, “An Ordinance to Establish a ‘Shelter in Place’ Order for the City of Birmingham During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.”
The 2020 state legislative sessions are underway across the country and a hot topic in many states is medical marijuana. As discussed last year, Alabama was poised to become the first Deep South state to enact a medical marijuana law. The Alabama legislature ultimately tabled the issue until the 2020 legislative session.
On March 20, 2019, House Bill 243 (HB243) was introduced in the Alabama House of Representatives. HB243, a bipartisan bill with extensive support from both the majority and minority leaders, would create the Compassion, Access, Research, and Expansion Act (CARE Act) to legalize medical marijuana in Alabama for individuals with certain medical conditions. In its current form, HB243 lists 33 medical conditions and categories of conditions for which an individual would be eligible for a medical marijuana card in Alabama, including addiction, anxiety, autism, cancer, chronic pain, Crohn’s disease, depression, glaucoma, epilepsy/seizures, irritable bowel syndrome, posttraumatic stress disorder, sleep disorders, and terminal conditions.
On July 25, 2018, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a Birmingham federal judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the February 2016 Alabama Uniform Minimum Wage and Right to Work Act (commonly known as “the Minimum Wage Act”). The Minimum Wage Act provided the Alabama state legislature with the authority to control the regulation of wages within the state of Alabama, including the establishment of a state minimum wage.
On July 17, 2017, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a unanimous ruling in Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing, LLC, allowing medical marijuana users to assert claims for handicap discrimination under the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act.
On January 18, 2010, the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (NJCUMMA) was signed into law. While the NJCUMMA explicitly states that it does not require employers to accommodate a qualified patient’s use of medicinal marijuana in the workplace, that could be changing soon.
My unabashed love affair with the state of Vermont has been around for quite a while. Maple syrup, Phish, innovative ice cream, beautiful scenery, and a statewide ban on interstate billboards—what’s not to love? Another interesting feature about the Green Mountain State: Vermont prides itself on being extraordinarily restrictive on employers that wish to drug test their employees.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended (ADA) considers alcoholism to be a “disability.” Individuals who suffer from alcoholism are entitled to the protections of the ADA just as those with significant mental illnesses or those confined to wheelchairs are. Thus, employers should be aware of certain legal issues, concerns, and prohibitions when questioning job applicants or employees about alcohol intake or when conducting alcohol testing.