Navigating Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization: What New York Employers Need to Know

Following the legalization of adult-use cannabis in New York, employers have raised many questions concerning the impact on their businesses. According to a National Safety Council survey, eight out of 10 employers have expressed concerns about recreational cannabis and other related products. However, only one-third of employers identified cannabis as a primary concern, and less than half had specific written policies concerning cannabis. Employers in New York will have to review their policies to ensure that they comply with changes in labor law while remaining clear.

One issue that employers have to navigate is whether cannabis is considered legal conduct off-duty. Attorneys suggest that employers governed by state law remove cannabis from the list of illegal substances for drug testing purposes. Employers will have to consider a range of factors before concluding that an employee is impaired on the job since the state does not have a blood-alcohol limit for cannabis.

Another issue is the difference between private and public employers. Federal law still considers marijuana an illegal substance, and federal employees or those whose work is regulated by federal laws can still restrict legal cannabis use. Public safety exemptions do not exist, but state guidance has a “subjective and objective test” for whether an employee is being unsafe or unhealthy while at work. Medical patients have more protections under the Compassionate Care Act, but employers do not have to tolerate impairment.

Employers in New York need to understand the new laws concerning adult-use cannabis to avoid lawsuits or other legal issues. Employers must update their policies and remain vigilant while navigating these new regulations. (Source)

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