According to a 2018 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 62% of Americans believe that marijuana should be legalized. With the nationwide support for cannabis legalization, arises the question of employment law and drug testing. Even when it boils down to medical marijuana use, with marijuana purchased legally from marijuana dispensaries. State legalization of marijuana is an issue with employers that want to maintain productivity among workers. Employers are also confused right now because of the conflicting state and federal laws.

Marijuana Legalization – The Law

The Drug-Free Workplace Act requires that contractors meet certain conditions when employed under a federal contract or grants of over $100,000. The Act requires that contractors need to work in a drug-free work environment/ they have to be able to qualify and keep their federal contract jobs. That said, a drug-free workplace is being questioned by both employers and employees today. What happens to employees that have a medical marijuana card, and obtain their cannabis from marijuana dispensaries if they test positive?

The Effects of Marijuana Legalization on Employment Law

Contractors need to abide by state laws. That said, with recreational marijuana laws passed in several states, there are no laws that allow workers to go to work “high.” The availability of medical marijuana in the forms of topicals or edibles from marijuana dispensaries makes it important for employers to watch out for work performance issues like accidents operating heavy machinery.


Additionally, where state law allows for cannabis use, employers have to be careful. They also have to keep cannabis use private due to employee privacy. Also, they need to modify their workplace employment policies regarding marijuana use.

Today, none of the marijuana laws passed in the 29 states that legalize medical marijuana use. Cannabis from medical dispensaries, allow for employees to be impaired while under medical marijuana.


As for recreational medical marijuana use, none of the employees or applicants have employment-related protection. That said, there are 12 states that allow for employment-related medical marijuana use protection from employees and applicants. These legitimate claims fall under the state disability or marijuana laws. It protects medical marijuana users in case of adverse action by an employer, against an employee for legal use of medical marijuana from marijuana dispensaries.

Marijuana Legalization – The Benefits

With the legalization of medical marijuana from marijuana dispensaries, there has been an influx of new jobs related to the marijuana industry. Marijuana business owners have been able to branch out into marijuana dispensaries, marijuana nurseries, and online sales. This allows for more economic growth within a community.

Employers or businesses operating in states that have not legalized marijuana use need to take into consideration all the new and evolving marijuana laws. Businesses may also want to change their drug policies in the workplace. That said, a business in a state that has not legalized medical marijuana from marijuana dispensaries may enforce their policy on an employee that fails a drug test.

Marijuana Legalization – The Policies

A multi-state business may consider adopting multi-state drug laws. Unless the business is governed by federal laws that state otherwise. Additionally, there are multi-state laws that have made it law to accommodate medical marijuana use from medical dispensaries.


Applicable state disability law allows for the use of medical marijuana. So, employees cannot be excluded from a job application due to medical marijuana use. If employers did this, they would be in violation of the state disability law.


Today, businesses throughout the US are going to have to keep an eye on all the evolving marijuana laws. Also, modify their drug testing policies, to take into consideration the off-duty use of medical marijuana. Businesses need to take into account both the recreational and medical marijuana varying state laws with caution.


States That Legalize

Today medical marijuana from marijuana dispensaries is legal in 33 states. Just a few of these states are:

  • Washington
  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Vermont
  • New Hampshire

A few other states allow for the limited use of medical marijuana for certain types of medical conditions. These will vary from state to state like Louisiana and West Virginia, only allowing for cannabis-infused products like oils and pills.

Additionally, states that only have limited use of cannabidiol oil have not embraced broader medical marijuana laws.There are also a few states that have decriminalized the possession of a small amount of marijuana.

To recap, as of 2019 there are 11 states that have legalized marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use. Today, 22 states have recently added medical marijuana regulations. These states allow for the legal use of medical marijuana. There are also 14 states, as of today, that have legalized the use of CBD only products with no THC. There are 3 states that have not okay any form of cannabis use.

It is important that all businesses and employees take into consideration state and federal laws, as well as their company’s workplace laws.They need to keep in mind that if you visit one of the medical marijuana dispensaries, you may be allowed to smoke onsite at a licensed retailer.

So whether you’re going on a family vacation and need to purchase medical marijuana from across the US, or are applying for a new job, and are worried about marijuana drug tests at the workplace, it’s advisable to read up on the consumption laws in your state and understand how long drug stays in your system.