Industry News: Changes in State Marijuana Laws after November 8 Elections
The November 8 elections marked a very significant event for Americans not only due to the choice for the country’s next president but also the ballot initiatives in 35 states to legalize marijuana as a medically accepted drug. Initiatives to push for legalization of marijuana – either for medical or recreational purposes – have been running for years. The basis for this is that marijuana advocates and some medical professionals claim that cannabis use is an effective and safe way of alleviating pain in patients who are suffering from cancer.
What The Ballot Initiatives Mean
An affirmative vote in the ballot initiatives would mean legalizing marijuana for medical use and in some, recreational use. Among the 30 states, new laws were passed to make marijuana use equivalent to liquor consumption. The latest elections made it legal for anyone over 21 years old to smoke pot in the states of California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada. After the legalization of recreational marijuana use, many people expect a drastic increase in demand for this substance and billions of dollars raking in to help the economy. Marijuana is still considered under Schedule I, which means that marijuana has no currently accepted medical use and has a high potential for abuse. This is despite marijuana legalization in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia. The entire Pacific coastline is now in favor of weed legalization. Among the nine states where weed was on the ballot, all but one made access to cannabis easier. Arizona did not pass a new law for recreational use of marijuana because its Proposition 205 was defeated by public vote. It appears that among the two parties, the Republicans are the least to favor legalizing marijuana for recreational use, while the support among the Democrats and Independents are sharply increasing. The reason behind such favor for the legalization of marijuana among the Democrats and the Independents may be due to the ever-increasing research and awareness that it can provide health benefits with low potential risks. But apart from this is seeing that legalizing such substance which has been very “successful” in the black market could be of great help to fuel the local economies. A Marijuana Policy Group has published a report which credited legal marijuana in Colorado as being able to create at least 180,000 full-time jobs, which can add to about $42 billion to the state’s economy in 2015. Based on these findings, it seems clear that legalizing weed in five states could be hitting a jackpot. All of the new laws that were passed last November 8 included state taxes on retail marijuana sales:
- 15% in California and Nevada
- 10% in Maine
- 5% in Massachusetts
U.S. president-elect Donald Trump has not made clear about his stand on this issue but from his previous interviews, he was quoted saying that he “believes 100 percent in the medical use of marijuana”, but has made it clear that he would not interfere with the state’s rights to come up with their own marijuana-related laws.
The Impact of the New Law in the Workplace
The following are initiatives on how each of the mentioned states will handle marijuana use with regards to the workplace environment.
For Medical Use
53.17% voted in legalizing marijuana for medical use. Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment 2016 provides these protections for the medical use of marijuana:
- An employer shall not base his decision with regards to hiring, termination or any employment condition of an employee based on his past or present status.
- The employer shall not tolerate ingestion of marijuana in the workplace or while the employee may be under the influence of marijuana.
The Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative was favored by 71.25%. Its limitations include not allowing anyone under the influence of marijuana to permit the operation of any vehicle or machineries. It does not allow any on-site use of marijuana, whether in the place of employment, school or in public places. It also does not allow any insurance provider to reimburse a person for expenses related to the medical use of marijuana.
Montana then authorized the medical use of marijuana in 2004 but a legislative effort to repeal initiative was vetoed in 2011. From the recent election, 57.63% was in favor for its legalization for medical purposes. The court ordered SB 423 to take effect in August 31, 2016. This act does not allow an insurance provided to reimburse costs associated with the use of marijuana and an employer shall not accommodate the use of marijuana by a registered cardholder. It does not prohibit an employer from accepting an employee who might be using marijuana to treat a debilitating medical condition.
The Compassionate Care Act was favored by 63.7%. This law does not address any workplace issues but states that any qualified patient or primary giver does not relieve the qualified patient or primary caregiver any criminal liabilities when caught with the possession, distribution of marijuana.
For Personal or Recreational Use
The following states legalized personal use of marijuana for eligible individuals over the age of 21 but in limited quantities.
Proposition 64, The Adult Use of Marijuana Act was favored by 56.03%. This act is in favor in legalizing, controlling and regulating the cultivation, processing, manufacture, distribution, testing and sale of nonmedical marijuana which can be used by adults 21 years and older and to impose tax the commercial growth and retail sale of marijuana. This allows enactment and enforcement on workplace policies with regards to marijuana. This does not allow consumption of drug or marijuana in workplace or even require an employer to permit the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, sale and growth of marijuana in the workplace. Employees are expected to comply with the state or federal law.
Nearly 1.5 million people favored in passing The Marijuana Legalization Act. This law does not stop the employer from enforcing the law against employees who have been proven to be guilty of using or possessing marijuana in the workplace. Part of this act is not to discriminate a person from being employed or enrolled in an educational institution based on the individual’s consumption of marijuana use outside of their premises.
The Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization was favored by 53.56%. Its limitations include not allowing operation of any kind of vehicle or machineries under the influence of marijuana. This also does not allow any employer to accommodate any employee to continue to work if he is found to be under the influence of the said substance.
The Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative was in favored by 54.47%. The impact on the workplace environment includes enforcing a workplace policy wherein employees are not allowed to continue working under the influence of marijuana and shall comply with the rules under the federal law with regards to marijuana use. Employers from the mentioned states are required to develop their own policies with regards to marijuana use for better understanding among the employees. It is expected that there would be additional legislations that will be issued by these states.
Other States That Are Likely to Follow in Legalizing Marijuana Use
- Rhode Island