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How Marijuana Legalization in Nevada Affects Business Owners

by Melissa ScaglioneJuly 18, 2017 8:00 AM

Have you ever heard the expression “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?” Unfortunately, that might not always be true. 

In the past year, recreational marijuana became legalized in the great state of Nevada. If you smoke weed and then get drug tested at work the next day, what happened in Vegas may come back to haunt you.

Image of medical marijuana laws.

How Legalized Marijuana Affects the Workplace

This year, one in five American people reside in a state where weed is legal. What does this mean for the business owners that have employees in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Maine, California, Massachusetts, and Nevada? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Although some States have legalized marijuana, federally it is still illegal.
  2. Federal Law has been trumping State Law for the cases we have seen thus far.
  3. Your employees still cannot possess or use marijuana at work.
  4. You as an employer can still have a drug-free work place and enforce it.
  5. You need to sharpen up your policies and handbooks to protect your company.

At this point, there is no significant case law to support employment decisions one way or another, as we are still in the infant stages of this new legislation. However, the Colorado Supreme Court reviewed a case involving the Lawful Activities Statute, C.R.S. § 24-34-402.5, last year.  

The case, Coats v. Dish Network, LLC, 350 P.3d 970 (Colo. 2015), involved a quadriplegic employee who used medical marijuana after work hours to help control his pain. He was fired after a random drug test showed that he had THC in his system. The employee went on to sue his employer claiming that his termination was in violation of the Colorado lawful activities statute, But his employer won the case because the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that his termination did not violate the statute because marijuana use was unlawful under federal law. 

Staying on Top Of Federal and State Marijuana Laws

Things are going to continually change over the course of the next couple years, but one thing that is going to remain is the need for HR specialists to keep you ahead of the game. Unfortunately, this endeavor can be both costly and time consuming for a small business owner. 

The best way to protect yourself and your employees is to partner with a Professional Employer Organization. PEOs like GMS were created to help small to mid-sized businesses navigate through the ever-changing laws and regulations. Contact us today to learn more about risk management services and other ways PEOs can help your business.

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