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Now That Marijuana is Legal in MA, Can I Get Fired For Smoking Pot?

As of December 15, marijuana will be legal in Massachusetts. Although it will no longer be a crime to smoke pot on your own time, employers aren’t necessarily going to be fond of your perfectly-legal hobby. In fact, employers can still fire, or refuse to hire you, if you smoke marijuana. This is even true if you only partake outside of normal work hours. Here’s the thing – marijuana is still against federal law. For this reason, employers can retain personal conduct policies that prohibit marijuana use and can fire you if a drug test returns positive results.

Each of the eight states that have legalized recreational marijuana have workplace drug policy exemptions. In MA, the law states that “the authority of employers to enact and enforce workplace policies restricting the consumption of marijuana by employees” is not changed. Considering that THC may remain in a user’s system for weeks, it stands to reason that if your employer drug tests – and you wish to keep your job – you may want to abstain from using marijuana, at least for the time being. If you have questions about how the change in marijuana laws will impact you, contact a Boston defense lawyer today.

No Way to Measure “Actual” Marijuana Use

Critics of employers who continue to drug test for marijuana say it’s an unfair practice. “It’s the equivalent of firing somebody who drank a glass of wine on Friday evening and then came to work on Monday,” said Tamar Todd, the Drug Policy Alliance’s legal director. He believes zero-tolerance policies should adapt to changing laws. In an effort to develop more accurate testing methods which measure actual marijuana impairment rather than just the drug’s presence, experts are working on Breathalyzer-esque devices. Such a device could be used by employers and, possibly more importantly, by law enforcement to determine if an individual is “too stoned” to drive safely.

Zero-tolerance drug testing can also be a challenge for businesses that rely on young professionals who often have liberal attitudes about marijuana. This is especially true in the mostly-liberal states that have recently legalized marijuana. Consider Colorado. In 2012, Colorado became the first state to legalize pot. At the beginning, there was an increase in drug testing, but that has since changed.

“We have ski industries out here, and if they really took a hard line on marijuana use, they would have to shut down,” said Curtis Graves, the Colorado-based Mountain States Employers Council information resource manager.

Lack of Legal Precedent = Uncertainty

The bottom line is, there’s a lot of uncertainty about how marijuana use can impact employment in MA currently, and in the future. The main factor of this uncertainty is the lack of legal precedent. However, some cases involving employees with medical marijuana permits have recently been decided in favor of the employers. A 2015 case in Colorado involved the firing of a Dish Network employee who failed a drug test due to medical marijuana. The employee, who used the drug for a disability, lost the case when the court ruled that Dish Network’s actions were allowed because marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Similar outcomes have occurred in Washington, California, and Montana.

Altman & Altman, LLP – Boston’s Premier Criminal Defense Law Firm

If you have been charged with a crime, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Altman & Altman, LLP, we have extensive experience with all types of criminal cases. Due to the lack of legal precedent in the states that have already legalized recreational marijuana, there is quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding marijuana and driving, marijuana and employment, and various other issues surrounding the drug. At Altman & Altman, LLP, we stay one step ahead of the game when it comes to changing legislation, and marijuana legalization is no exception. If you are concerned about how these new laws will impact you, contact us today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.

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