Cannabis and its influence on people's health has grown dramatically during the past decade.
Its nonpsychoactive component, cannabidiol or CBD, has been found by users to relieve a list of illnesses and conditions including insomnia, anxiety, epilepsy, chronic pain from fibromyalgia, endometriosis and many others, according to the Harvard Health Blog. While the use of marijuana for medical purposes in the United States can be hard to estimate, sources claim it to be more than three million users. With a number that large, dealing with its use on an HR level is a sooner-rather-than-later issue.
Dealing with Cannabis Issues
There are several instances where an HR department must deal with cannabis use, not least of which are worker compensation claims.
Consider these scenarios:
- You have an employee who gets hurt at work and wants his or her medical marijuana covered as a treatment. Do you have to cover it?
- You have an employee that tests positive for marijuana. You fire him or her. Do you have to pay unemployment benefits?
The answers to both these questions depend on where you're located. For the first scenario, SHRM reported that the Maine Supreme Court held that an employer was not required to pay for an employee's medical marijuana as it would directly conflict with federal law. Maine legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use in 2016 but it remains illegal by the federal government.
For the second scenario, SHRM stated that a Michigan appellate court found those with medical marijuana cards who were fired for testing positive for marijuana were eligible for unemployment compensation benefits. In 2018, Michigan approved the legalize, regulate and tax marijuana.
Even in states where marijuana is legal for recreational use, companies can still make zero-tolerance policies for its use at work, similar to alcohol use, especially if they use federal contractors and/or rely on federal grants as per The Drug Free Workplace Act.
Not My State, Not My Problem
So, if your company is based in a state that currently has no medical or recreational laws on the books are you off the hook? Not necessarily. The legalities surrounding marijuana and its uses are quickly evolving. Consider that in 1996 Californians voted to legalize medical marijuana; today, at least 33 states have a comprehensive medical marijuana program and 11 more, plus Washington, D.C. have voted to legalize it for recreational use. What's more, just last year 21 states considered bills to legalize recreational marijuana.
The good news is there are already companies working to stay ahead of changing cannabis laws for businesses.
BirdDogHR has partnered with myHRcounsel, a digital resource that delivers legally backed answers to any HR question, to help our partners stay up-to-date on changing cannabis laws across both state and federal levels. Our software helps companies in the cannabis industry navigate the legalities of HR to keep them both and their employees safe. Contact us to see how it can work for you.