Education is key to employer concerns around legalization

Shanon Jaramillo, Cannabis NM Staffing, LLC

In Santa Fe, New Mexico, on February 9th the House Health and Human Services Committee voted 5 to 2 in favor of House Bill 356, the Cannabis Regulation Act. Next stop is the House Judiciary Committee.

In the new world of cannabis acceptance, what could legalization in New Mexico mean for businesses and what can employers do?

In Section 27 of the legalization bill, it says that it’s unlawful to take adverse action against anyone not in a safety-sensitive position based on the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act. It goes on to give employers the right to continue to take adverse employment action against any employee who they feel has gone against workplace drug policies or who may be putting the company an illegal situation per federal guidelines.

Legalization does shift things on both sides of the table in the workplace, however, it also allows a chance for employers and consumers to become more educated around the topic in an effort to navigate the new waters. Companies will have to make some decisions about the messages sent out to current and potential employees, while learning the laws up close.  "Employers have to address the way the world is now and not use the same old drug and alcohol policy, " concluded Rachel Schumacher, an attorney with Akerman in Los Angeles in the Society for Human Resources article on How Do Recreational Marijuana Laws Affect the Workplace?

Just like with recreational alcohol, employers are coming to understand the difference between being impaired by cannabis in real time and having cannabis in one’s system over time. Those looking into this topic now will be ahead of the learning curves imposed by new regulations.

Understanding state and federal cannabis and employment law and issuing signage for employees regarding cannabis and workplace policies will also become reality for all employers in New Mexico if legalization is passed. Most businesses will simply keep a zero-tolerance policy and continue to weed professionals out by thc drug testing and following the guidelines of the newly proposed and reinforced regulations, which entail some simple steps to educating their staff. Some companies will create programs and policies in support of patient-employees under the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act and consumer-employees under legalization.

Education is the key to bridging gaps in information between regulations passing and real time application of the regulations in everyday life. Those employers who embrace legalization and medical cannabis in New Mexico most likely will have made efforts to understand not only the marijuana plant and the medical science of how it works with the body, but the difference between medical and adult use markets, regulations, employment laws, and safety in the workplace. Employment laws to brush up if operating a business in a legal or medical cannabis state are; The Drug Free Workplace Act, the Omnibus Transportation Employee Safety Act of 1991, The Americans with Disabilities Act, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, OSHA, for starters.

Experts at local law and accounting firms as well as professional training and staffing service businesses operating within the cannabis industry, like Cannabis NM Staffing, are gearing up to help businesses overcome the learning curves posed in this article. Marijuana laws continue to change around the United States with over 33 states having a medical program like the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program and 10 states allowing for legalization. While we wait to see what the House Judiciary Committee does with HB 356, expert panelists at a Grow New Mexico 2020 event in early March will meet on “What cannabis legalization means for your business” to discuss the potential of a legal marketplace and it’s bearing on businesses in the land of enchantment.

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