Marijuana legalization: What it means for employers and workers

Marijuana legalization: What it means for employers and workers. (WWMT/File)

Recreational marijuana becomes legal in Michigan Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, but don't expect all the rules to go up in smoke when you show up at work.

The passage of recreational marijuana legalizes recreational pot use, purchase and possession for individuals 21-years-old and older, but that does not mean employers need to buy in to making it okay for their employees.

Under the new law, employers will be able to drug test and enforce drug-free policies.

Dennis Dahl is an owner of Homestead Cabinets & Furniture, a custom-made cabinet business in Kalamazoo. The company employs five people, but doesn't drug test.

"The whole subject of drugs has never crossed my path," Dahl said.

Even after recreational pot becomes legal tomorrow, Dahl has no intention of changing his policy.

"I don't think my life will be different tomorrow than it is today, the employees will behave similarly like they always have," Dahl said.

Under Michigan's new recreational marijuana, employers can enforce their drug policy for employees as they see fit.

"Just because is now legal does not mean in anyway an employer can be prohibited from insisting from his employees don't use marijuana," said Kalamazoo-based criminal defense attorney Randall Levine.

According to Michigan Works! most small businesses don't drug test their employees, but for work in industries like manufacturing, heavy machinery, transportation and other "dangerous jobs," legalization could complicate the employer's responsibility to maintain a safe work environment.

Jakki Bungart-Bibb, deputy director of operations for Michigan Works! Southwest, said many of these types of companies initially feared there might be issues with applicants not knowing the law.

"Education, regarding the law, for both job seekers and employers will be an important role in moving forward once the law is in effect," said Bungart-Bibb.

West Michigan workers, including Kristi Montgomery, a bookkeeping assistant at People's Food Co-op of Kalamazoo, said her boss have already laid down the pot law.

"Being able to do your job clearly and the way you’re supposed to is the most important thing," said Montgomery,

Some experts believe the legalization could have an extensive impact on workplace drug policies across the state, especially with a serious worker shortage.

Legal experts said the new law might force employers in some industries to stiffen work policies.

"This is uncharted waters. We're entering a new landscape and nobody really knows how it's going to play out," Levine said.

Meanwhile, Dahl said he will trust his employees until given a reason not to.

"It's like going to lunch and coming back drunk, if I sensed anything like that, I'd stop that behavior immediately because I don’t want anyone to lose a finger, get cut or irreparably injured," Dahl said.


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