New York Legalizes Recreational Marijuana Use

cannabis products

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill on March 31 legalizing recreational marijuana use in New York for adults ages 21 and older. According to the governor's office, unlawful discrimination will be prohibited under the new law and workplace safety protections will be implemented.

"This was one of my top priorities in this year's State of the State agenda, and I'm proud these comprehensive reforms address and balance the social equity, safety and economic impacts of legal adult-use cannabis," Cuomo said.

We've rounded up resources and articles from SHRM Online and other trusted outlets on the news.

The Details

Under the new law, records will automatically be expunged for people who have been convicted of marijuana-related offenses that are no longer criminalized. Certain aspects of the new law take effect immediately. For example, people in the state now may possess up to three ounces of marijuana for recreational use. Other provisions will be phased in, such as the availability of home delivery services and lounges for onsite consumption. Dispensaries are not expected to open in the next year. Cities and other localities in New York have until Dec. 31 to pass laws opting out of allowing dispensaries, but they cannot ban adult recreational use. The law allows people to smoke marijuana in public where smoking tobacco is permitted, but further regulations could place more restrictions on smoking marijuana in public. Smoking is not authorized in schools, workplaces or cars. 

(The New York Times)

Review Policies and Procedures

Employers will need to review their policies and procedures to determine whether updates should be made in light of the new law and changing public perception of cannabis use. Employers should understand what drug tests can and cannot detect, the signs of impairment, and what protections are afforded to certified medical marijuana users in New York.

(JD Supra)

Pre-Employment Marijuana Testing

Employers should note that New York City prohibits employers from administering pre-employment drug tests for marijuana. The law has exceptions for safety-sensitive positions and jobs that require drug testing under federal and state law. Although the law generally prohibits employers from testing job applicants for marijuana, employers can still test current employees and discipline them for bringing drugs to the workplace or being under the influence of marijuana on the job. 

(Jackson Lewis)

Evolving Marijuana Laws

Thirty-five states have now approved medical marijuana use, and 15 of those states and Washington, D.C., also have approved recreational use. South Dakota's new recreational cannabis law was approved by voters in November 2020; however, a court deemed the law void under the state constitution, so the law is currently tied up in litigation. Employers need to be aware of how each applicable statute impacts the workplace. "Many state medical marijuana laws prohibit employment discrimination against applicants and employees who use medical marijuana, and we can expect to see the courts continuing the trend to protect the rights of medical marijuana users in the workplace," explained Kathryn Russo, an attorney with Jackson Lewis in Melville, N.Y.

(SHRM Online)

Focus on Impairment

Even in states where marijuana use is legal, employers don't have to tolerate on-the-job intoxication. Employers should train managers and supervisors on ways to reasonably observe when someone is working under the influence. For example, testing based on reasonable suspicion could be triggered when an employee has slurred speech or is argumentative, irritable or nonresponsive.

(SHRM Online)

Visit SHRM's resource hub page on marijuana and the workplace.



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