Legal pot complicates drug-free work policies

Pot may be legal, but workers may want to check with their boss first before they grab the pipe or joint during off hours.
Associated Press
Dec 8, 2012

Businesses in Washington state, where the drug is legal, and Colorado, where it will be by January, are trying to figure out how to deal with employees who use it on their own time and then fail a drug test.

It is yet another uncertainty that has come with pot legalization as many ask how the laws will affect them.

"There's just an incredible amount of gray right now" about how marijuana legalization affects employers, said Sandra Hagen Solin of the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance, a coalition of chambers of commerce.

Police departments are especially worried. Officers take oaths to protect all laws, state and federal. In this case, pot is still prohibited under federal law.

The Seattle police department is reviewing its policies on drug use by officers or prospective officers, spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said, adding that it's unlikely off-duty officers will be allowed to use pot. The department might ease its requirement that applicants not have used marijuana in the previous three years.

The Denver police department is reviewing Colorado's marijuana law, which goes into effect in January. The department has no immediate plans to change employment practices, spokesman John White said.

"Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, so officers would not under any scenario be allowed to use marijuana," White said. White wasn't sure about pre-employment marijuana use.

Other employers, especially those with federal contracts, are concerned what the new laws mean for them. One group of Colorado businesses has pleaded for clarity in a letter to the White House, which hasn't said if it would sue to block the law.

"The uncertainly created will cause havoc for our members and hamper their efforts to maintain drug-free worksites," wrote Mark Latimer, head of the Rocky Mountain chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors.

The havoc Latimer refers to is confusion over a law passed with cigarette smokers in mind. Colorado's Lawful Off-Duty Activities law says workers can't be dismissed for legal behavior off the clock. A case pending in a state appeals court could settle the question.

The case involves Brandon Coats, a telephone operator for Dish Network. Paralyzed in a teenage car crash, he's also been a medical marijuana patient in Colorado since 2009. Coats was fired in 2010 for failing a company drug test, though his employer didn't claim he was ever impaired on the job.

Coats sued to get his job back, but a trial court dismissed his claim in 2011. The judge agreed with Dish Network that medical marijuana use isn't a "lawful activity" covered by the law. Coats appealed, and the state Court of Appeals has agreed to hear the case but hasn't set a date.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, more than half the states have laws that protect workers who smoke cigarettes off the clock. Colorado's law extends to all legal activities, though Washington state doesn't have a similar statute.

"If you're doing it at home and it's not illegal and it's not impairing your work performance, you should be protected," said Coats' lawyer, Michael Evans.

Some employers are required by law to conduct drug testing, including in industries regulated by the U.S. Departments of Transportation, Energy and Defense. In other cases, companies or agencies that receive federal grants or contracts, including universities that get money from the Department of Education and police agencies that obtain grants from the Department of Justice, are required to maintain drug-free workplaces.

One of Washington's biggest private employers, The Boeing Co., generally requires drug tests before employment, upon reasonable suspicion or after accidents. The Washington measure won't change any of that, said company spokeswoman Cathy Rudolph. "The safety and integrity of our operations, products and services is paramount," she said in an email.

For companies like Boeing without random or regular drug testing, it's not entirely clear how such policies can be enforced.

Some lawyers are encouraging companies to take stock of their drug policies. "This is a good time for employers to revisit their policies and make sure they're still consistent with what they want to do, and to talk with their employees about what the policies are," said Mark Berry, an employment lawyer.

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, a Denver-based chain with locations in the two states, has no plans to revisit its drug policy. Spokesman Kevin Caulfield said the policy already covers legal drugs, such as prescription medication. Marijuana would be treated the same, he said.

"If a drug is legal, as long as it's not abused or misused, it would not be something covered by the policy," Caulfield said.




Now, it's really going to get interesting. The smokers will wish they had just let it all alone!


Just wait until the health cost kicks in. We will be paying more in health premiums for all the pot heads. The insurance companies will be going nuts on this one.

Floyd P

Seriously? Pot is less of a health risk than cigarettes and alcohol. The only possibility is a sugar-induced coma.


we are already paying for it, with all the aging hippies and cokeheads from the 70's and 80's....

Licorice Schtick

Oh, yeah, it's the boomers' fault. No drug abuse among later generations? Seriously? And how do you think rampant obesity will affect the health of millenials as they age?

Phil Packer

I know A LOT LOT more people who have alcohol problems. A LOT.

The Big Dog's back

In Corporations we trust.

straight shooter

Marijuana is about as harmful as caffeine. Health care costs are high due to alcohol,tobacco,prescription meds,processed foods,contaminated drinking water, and lack of excerise.

Licorice Schtick

Nonsense. Pot is about as bad for your lungs as tobacco.

Phil Packer

Of course, nobody smokes as much pot as they do tobacco in one day...


It is really tough on the lungs. Worse than cigarettes.
*Depends on how the smoke is inhaled. A person usually inhales air along with the smoke when smoking a cigarette. No air when smoking a joint. I heard that somewhere.

straight shooter
Its amazing what you can find with the push of a button. Try it.


What drug, steroid or alcohol test was given to the 13 police officers who shot those 137 bullets near Cleveland, Ohio?

What drug or alcohol test is given to Ohio's corrupt judges when they decide court cases?

How many of you have done scientific research into the medical qualities of cannabis?

How about all the junk food and prescription drugs that kill over a hundred thousand each year?

You all have internet access to the internet. Do your research about the medical wonders of cannabis. It is not all about getting high or stoned.



Simple minded people only want simple answers.

For those who seek truthful and informative answers, do your research. Use the internet to your advantage.

(internet link deleted) "Your submission has triggered the spam filter and will not be accepted."

It is not about getting high, it is about getting healthy from a plant.

Licorice Schtick

The "spam filter" leads to stupid rejections, and discourages participantion. When it's triggered, the post should be flagged for review before posting, not rejected outright; certainly not a post from a long-time member-in-good-standing.


One can always go back and re-phrase.

Licorice Schtick

Not when it's apparently rejected due to a link, and only removing it works. (I've had that problem with obviously non-ad links, BTW.)


One poster suggested posting the message twice and the system will accept it on the second try. I tried that and it worked.

Licorice Schtick

Didn't work for me.

Licorice Schtick

Didn't work for me.

Erie County Resident

Great suggestion use the internet.
I have met 8 people on-line from Kalifornia and talk to them on a regular basis.
They all have their "420" permit to smoke medical dope.
Not one of them has a legitimate reason to have it, we've had very lengthy conversations about it. They also admit the fraud themselves.
"Feeling a bit tense, guess I'll go Medicate myself" seems to be a common phrase with them. They've also posted pictures of their family pot plants that they are allowed to grow out there.
Nope nothing there about just getting high... LMAO!!!


Try copying and pasting without the http. Let the user then copy and paste. Works for me.


...or change the link using something like (which has the added bonus of saving space, too).

Licorice Schtick

That's odd, because the system automatically creats links.


The Bible Was Right and the answers you're looking for are in scripture

Leviticus 20:13- "If a man lays with another man he should be stoned"


If you're altered ON the job, I can see the point whether you've used legal marijuana or legal alcohol or a legal prescription to get to that altered state. But what you do on your own time, provided you don't harm others while you're doing it, ought to be YOUR business, not mine and certainly not the government's!

This is just another mountain-out-of-a-molehill issue courtesy of those who think they know better than you what you ought and ought NOT to do, and who really enjoy the power it gives them to exercise such control. You think some drugs are addictive (marijuana, by the way, isn't one of them), you ought to see what POWER does to people!

Floyd P

Talk about double-standards. If it's legal in that state, then what's the problem? Alcohol is also considered a drug but it's been socially acceptable in all 50 states and US Territories for 80 years. Understandably, some industries require testing for safety concerns but then maybe it should be all-compassing to include alcohol. The Supreme Court is currently debating a measure where the Federal government would recognize and uphold some state's same sex marriage laws, which it should then consider applying to legalized marijuana. For the companies that set their own policy they can simply revise them to maintain and hire valuable workers who perform. This shouldn't be such an issue, all it is is a biased mind-set in culturally-influenced or outright ignorant people.


Best solution: (From the article)

"Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, a Denver-based chain with locations in the two states, has no plans to revisit its drug policy. Spokesman Kevin Caulfield said the policy already covers legal drugs, such as prescription medication. Marijuana would be treated the same, he said.

"If a drug is legal, as long as it's not abused or misused, it would not be something covered by the policy," Caulfield said."


This country is backwards in many ways. Same sex marriage? No prob. Abortion? Sure. Yet what any responsible adult does in their time?

The Big Dog's back

I pledge allegiance to the flags of the Corporations of America. Why do Corporations get to circumvent our Constitution?