News Roundtable tackles legal marijuana and the workplace

Nearly 40 people representing 27 Providers’ Council member organizations took part in an HR Roundtable on Feb. 20 in Needham to discuss Marijuana Legalization Policies and Procedures.

Attorneys Jeffrey Hirsch and Peter Moser from the law firm Hirsch Roberts Weinstein LLP; Senior Vice President of Community Services Beth Lacey of Advocates, Inc.; and President Gauri Bhalakia of ARCpoint Labs of Southboro-Framingham addressed different perspectives of legal marijuana, its effect on workplace policy and the rights of employers, employees and clients.

Fewer than half of the nearly 30 organizations represented at the roundtable currently use pre-employment drug tests. An HR professional from one that does said that her agency recently took THC, a component of marijuana, off the screening panel, but added fentanyl.

Lacey said that her agency, Advocates, has never drug tested and that their labor attorney advised the agency to instead focus on workplace behavior – employees have to be able to perform to meet the job description in a safe manner. Employees also cannot smell like drugs or alcohol.

Bhalakia, who oversees a drug-testing lab, presented the science of the testing process, how the body processes drugs and discussed the difference between usage and impairment. She recommended that when drug testing is needed, employers should always use a third party to avoid liability and noted that if employers have not updated their drug policies and employee handbooks in the last two years, they should do so.

Part of the discussion centered on medicinal marijuana and reasonable accommodations. Hirsch and Moser noted that a key piece of both state law and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is having an “interactive dialogue” around the accommodation being sought, including use of medical marijuana.

The roundtable also discussed employee rights and HIPAA, drug testing and CBD oil, common mistakes companies make in establishing substance use policies, and testing trends the lab is seeing.

Information about upcoming roundtables and trainings can be found online at providers.org/events. Look for complete coverage of Marijuana Legalization Policies and Procedures Roundtable in the March issue of The Provider newspaper.

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