By Kora Behrens, Clinical Nurse Manager, Medical Solutions
The public is becoming more supportive of marijuana law reform every day, with new polls showing that more than half of the country is in favor of legalizing marijuana. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the recreational use and sale of marijuana. Since then, 23 other states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana and supporters are commending the ability to regulate, tax, and test marijuana. Even though there’s much support for legalization, in all states where medicinal and recreational use is allowed, employers may still enforce and comply with a drug-free workplace. So, what does this mean for hospitals and other companies in states where marijuana use is legal?
Many employers are navigating how state laws affect employment and have policies stating that a positive drug screen is grounds for termination. Whether or not an employer can test employees for drugs is controversial and laws on this vary from state to state. Industries like transportation and nuclear energy are heavily regulated by the federal government and don’t give much say to the employer. Local and state governments, on the other hand, may have different regulations and leave much of the decision up to the employer. If the employer chooses to drug test employees, they must follow their state’s rules and procedures, which are intended to prevent discrimination and inaccurate collection of samples. Many states allow testing based on the following guidelines:
- The applicant knows that testing will be a part of the screening process.
- The employer has already offered the applicant the job, contingent on passing the drug test.
- All applicants for similar jobs are tested in the same way.
- The tests are administered by a state-certified lab.
Today, most companies that conduct drug testing will have their applicants submit an agreement to the testing.
As a Traveler and healthcare professional, you are agreeing to drug testing under federal law. This poses a question that many may not know the answer to: Can a nurse or healthcare professional be fired for using recreational marijuana on his or her day off when recreational use is legal in that nurse’s state? The answer is yes. It is still illegal to use marijuana under federal law even if it is legal in your state. The take-home message is that you should never want to risk your career and the federal law trumps any state laws.
Legalizing marijuana will have many ramifications in the workplace. The biggest and most influential ramification is patient safety. The best way to ensure quality care and to make sure patients are safe is to keep the workplace drug free.