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Weed and the workplace: how legalization changes workers' rights

Posted at 7:29 PM, Apr 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-23 23:09:23-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — On March 31st, employee policies across the state changed when Governor Cuomo officially legalized recreational marijuana.

"Employers can no longer discipline employees who decide to use marijuana outside of the workplace," James Grasso, labor and employment attorney at Phillips Lytle, said.

Previously, smoking schedule one drug marijuana could be cause for termination.

"We've been telling clients it makes sense to list marijuana along the lines of alcohol," Grasso said.

According to Grasso, now, marijuana can only be cause for termination if someone is currently under the influence while working, not if it shows up on a drug test.

"Drug testing for marijuana is still allowed," Grasso said, "but its utility will be questioned as far as a drug test alone will not tell an employer whether that person is under the influence at work."

So termination from marijuana comes down to observation.

"The law says you'll have to identify certain symptoms and show that they are impaired because a drug test alone is not enough."

This is not a one size fits all model. Federally, marijuana is still illegal, so companies with federal contracts could still require their employees to no partake.

"If employing someone who uses marijuana would jeopardize the federal contract, they could take legal action as well."