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From recreational use to legal rights for injured workers

On Behalf of | Apr 12, 2021 | Workers' Compensation

While marijuana remains a relative point of contention across the nation, New York state recently legalized its public use for individuals aged 21 and above. The legislative efforts also increased provisions for workers’ compensation claims.

The new law provides legal protection for employee use of medical marijuana, similar to that of prescription medications that may:

  • Require modified job assignments
  • Restrict work performance
  • Prohibit the safe completion of assigned tasks

The Cannabis/Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act also prohibits discrimination against employees who use cannabis outside of work hours, apart from company property. As such, a worker could hold their employer accountable for violations of the law.

Could smoke cloud judgment?

Senate bill 854 neither prohibits employers from developing nor enforcing workplace policies related to cannabis. That said, employment decisions ought not rest on drug test results.

Despite legalization, workplace stipulations may apply when:

  • The use of marijuana violates contracts with the federal government
  • Impairment interferes with an employee’s ability to perform their job safely and efficiently
  • Driving is part of a worker’s job description, since being in control of a motor vehicle under the influence remains unlawful

Employers retain the right to prohibit substance use on company property, when on duty or while using their equipment. Yet, further legislative efforts may be necessary to differentiate a worker’s treatment plan and job site regulations.

Legalized cannabis use is likely seen as a significant win for injured workers who defer to natural methods of pain management. However, it may be too soon to tell how opposing rights may factor into job-related accidents that result in a workers’ compensation claim.