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Legalized Cannabis Has Changed the American Workplace

There's much to consider in 2022 and beyond.

By
This story originally appeared on Benzinga

As many Americans begin their return to office life, how cannabis fits into the equation again comes to a head. The same can be said for companies working in a digital workplace.

Darren415 | Getty Images

In either case, sources say it's high time to address employee pot use if they haven't already. Cecile V. Munoz, president of U.S. Executive Search and Consulting told Benzinga that it's never wise to keep workplace policies static.

"They must reflect the broader changing laws, and to some degree, what is in the cultural ethos," said Munoz.

RELATED: Will Marijuana Use Affect Your Chances of Getting Hired?

Varying regulations

Benzinga spoke to sources in and out of the cannabis sector to better understand how cannabis fits into U.S. workplaces. Much like marijuana itself, rules vary by state.

In many cases, the employer has the final say on policy. Similar laws exist in major adult-use and medical cannabis marketplaces, including Colorado and Florida. The scenario allows each company to craft its own rules and protocols, a task many remain in the dark on.

"I'm not going to lie, I had to look up the regulations governing medical and adult-use cannabis during working and non-working hours," said James Eichner, CSO of Sana Packaging, a company that works across Colorado, California and Washington state. He added that the subject is a nuanced issue that companies contend with, in and out of cannabis.

Bryan J. Driscoll, a lawyer and HR consultant, said that depending on the state, companies may be able to go so far as restricting cannabis use off-hours. On the other end, some states may prohibit companies from asking if an employee has their medical card.

He added that clients in conservative states tend to avoid the issue for now. "In more progressive states, we've implemented policies, compliant with state law and keeping with company culture and safety."

Analysis from California NORML noted that numerous U.S. cities and states have some form of workplace anti-discrimination laws in place for cannabis patients. States include:

Arizona

Arkansas

Connecticut

Delaware

Illinois

Maine

Maryland

Massachusetts

Minnesota

Montana

Nevada

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

Oklahoma

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Dakota

Vermont

Virginia

West Virginia

Workplace consumption rules vary in cannabis sector

Most companies ban workday consumption, citing law and/or company opinions as prime reasons. The rule applies to numerous cannabis careers and virtually every non-pot venture.

Companies that are opposed cite worries like decreased productivity and heavy machinery safety use issues. The same sentiment is often shared among leading cannabis brands.

"In our experience, the cannabis industry is not much different from most other industries that prohibit drug or alcohol use during work hours," said Liesl Bernard, founder and CEO of cannabis staffing agency firm CannabizTeam.

She added that most clients do not have policies regarding off-hour use. Cannabiz Team does not allow cannabis use during work though accepts legal off-hours use and does not drug test.

Plant-touching brands like Jushi Holdings Inc. and C3 Industries tell Benzinga they support pot but don't allow consumption during work.

"This decision is influenced by the desire to provide a safe place to work and also to comply with state and local laws and regulations," said Jushi EVP Nichole Upshaw.

"Even businesses that are not highly regulated have some sort of policy around the use of intoxicants while at work," said Leslie Lemerand, C3's VP of people and culture.

Others pushed back on workday bans, instead citing employee performance as the metric.

"Everyone's relationship with and reaction to cannabis is different, and that needs to be taken into account," said Sana's Eichner, noting that cannabis may help some patients relieve medical symptoms and improve focus.

RELATED: There Are Fewer Worker Compensation Claims in States Where Marijuana Is Legal

Much to consider in 2022 and beyond

Most say employers should tailor workplace cannabis use to the company, job functions and the state.

Both U.S. Executive's Munoz and HempStaff CEO James Yagielo suggested reflecting workplace smoking and alcohol rules.

Yagielo advises companies that use drug tests to pivot to workplace bans like alcohol. "For more liberal companies, we see it leaning towards cigarettes, where employees are allowed to take cannabis smoke breaks and consume during their lunch hour."

HempStaff allows workday consumption and assesses cases based on employee performance. However, Munoz noted that "Laws within smoke-free states like California and Connecticut are increasing restrictions banning the ability to smoke in certain areas."

She added that remote working might further complicate issues as employees move to states where cannabis is legal while retaining their current job in illegal markets.

Vangst VP of partnerships, Kelsea Applebaum, said she's less concerned with on-site consumption and more focused on restrictive hiring policies like drug testing and prior offense flagging. "We all have to advocate for better policy and education in the markets we represent so that cannabis is no longer considered taboo but instead normalized."

Driscoll, meanwhile, recommends consulting with team leadership to ensure that policies align with state laws and company culture, adding that dual focus can lead to competing interests but, "With the right approach, companies can implement policies appropriate for them and their employees while ensuring compliance with their state laws."