Following the U.S. election on November 3, 2020, ballot counts in the presidential and some senatorial races were very close. But when it came to legalizing drugs, voters sent a clear message.
Arizona, Montana, and New Jersey passed initiatives that legalize recreational marijuana, while Mississippi voted to legalize medical marijuana. South Dakota passed ballot measures that legalize both recreational and medical marijuana, which means it is now legal (medical or recreational) in a total of 35 states. Meanwhile, in Oregon, voters approved two initiatives: one that decriminalized possession of small amounts of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines, and another that created a program for licensing producers of psilocybin, the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms. In Washington, DC, voters also decriminalized psilocybin.
How We Got Here
In 1969, some 84 percent of Americans believed that marijuana should be illegal. Two years later, in June 1971, President Richard Nixon stated that drug abuse was “public enemy number one,” and he officially kicked off the War on Drugs. In 1973, his administration created the Drug Enforcement Agency. As the years went by, more politicians joined the cause, and First Lady Nancy Reagan helped popularize the advice to “just say no” in the 1980s.
In subsequent years, people began to see cocaine and then opioids as being more dangerous than marijuana, and public perception began to change. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center in 2019, some 91 percent of Americans believed that marijuana should be legal.
As more states change their stance on drug use, what does all this mean for your business?
Revising Your Employee Handbook
To prepare your company for the new laws, be sure to set clear policies and expectations for your employees. Even though marijuana may be legal in your state, your workers must not feel empowered to be impaired on the job. Just as they should not be under the influence of alcohol, they should not be high when they are on the clock. Revise your employee handbook to incorporate understandable language and explain your policy.
Also, address any accommodation for medical marijuana that is applicable. Ensure that those using medical marijuana have legal prescriptions and make certain you understand your state’s laws regarding use.
Providing Training and Emphasizing Safety
In addition to setting and communicating your policies, it is a good idea to provide additional training so managers can recognize the signs of impairment. Any employees under the influence of alcohol or drugs are a danger to themselves and their colleagues. Their actions can put your worksites, projects, and other employees in jeopardy.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.