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Sep 7, 2023
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A Guide to New York’s Cannabis Workplace Policies

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New York’s Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), enacted in March 2021, restructured the state’s labor laws on cannabis use. As cannabis gains traction and social acceptance, there’s an all-time high need for New York employees (and employers) to understand the legal provision for cannabis use, both in the workplace and off work. Here’s a comprehensive guide on New York’s cannabis workplace policies. 

Understanding New York’s Employee Drug Testing Policy

New York’s MRTA introduced a trail-blazing development to cannabis workplace rules. New York’s cannabis policies may lay the groundwork for other states to follow suit. 

The ACT makes New York one of the first to largely prohibit employers from testing employees and applicants for cannabis use but with these exceptions:

Mandatory Testing

Employers may conduct drug tests if required under state or federal law or if they risk losing federal benefits without drug testing.

Cannabis Impairment

If an employee displays specific and articulable symptoms of cannabis impairment that interfere with their job duties or workplace safety, the employer may screen for drug use. 

By law, merely perceiving a cannabis-like smell on staff isn’t a sufficient cause for a drug test.

New York’s Cannabis Workplace Policies on Sealing Prior Cannabis Convictions

New York’s Cannabis Control Board has taken a progressive step to expunge around 203,000 cannabis-related charges from background checks. As part of the MRTA, these records will be (sealed) taken off public space or expunged(wholly wiped out), granting one-time cannabis convicts a fresh start.

Workplace Cannabis Use and On-Call Shifts

Although you may use cannabis, never around the workplace, whether through infused foods and beverages or during breaks.

Note that on-call shifts are regarded as “work hours”; hence, it is expected you stay off cannabis during these periods.

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New York’s Cannabis Workplace Policies on Remote Work and Off-Site Use 

If you work from another state, the New York marijuana laws might not protect you.

If you work from home, your home isn’t considered a “workplace.” However, your employer can take action if you show signs of being impaired by cannabis during work hours and may enact rules for using cannabis while working.

Employers can’t stop workers from using cannabis while on leave or off the workplace, except for reasons highlighted in the Labor Law exceptions.

Your employer may ban cannabis use in a company vehicle, even if you use it after work hours.

Prohibiting Cannabis Use as a Condition of Employment

Employers are forbidden to ask employees to waive their cannabis use rights as a condition of employment. Section 201-D of the state Labor Law strips employers of the right to compel employees or applicants into giving up their rights to legal cannabis.

Balancing Medical Cannabis Use in the Workplace

The Compassionate Care Act protects certified medical marijuana patients in New York.

Employers, however, may still impose restrictions under specific circumstances:

  • Prohibiting Workplace Use: Employers can enforce policies prohibiting cannabis use during company time or in the work environment.
  • Federal Law Compliance: Hirers need not make exceptions for medical cannabis use if it conflicts with federal laws, contracts, or funding.
  • Disability Protection: Employers should be cautious about associating signs of impairment with cannabis use, as they may actually be a disability. State Human Rights Law prohibits using such signs as grounds for dismissal or discrimination.

Employer Liability for Continued Cannabis Drug Tests

With few exceptions, employers are now barred from using cannabis use or drug screenings as a basis for refusing employment. The 2021 Amazon class action suit (filed by employees against the e-commerce giant for its drug test policy) is a stark reminder of the implication of screening employees for cannabis use.

Playing It Safe at Work With Your Cannabis Consumption

Your New York medical cannabis card may save you from employment discrimination and invasive drug tests, but find out on-hours consumption rules and exceptions, if any. This helps you smoothly align your cannabis use with work. So you can indulge without getting fired.

As New York’s legal cannabis grows, it’s rewarding to stay up to date with the legislation, particularly regarding your workplace rights and responsibilities.

Knowing these legal limits will help you set good boundaries with your cannabis consumption in compliant workplace environments. Education and open communication will help create a harmonious balance between your personal cannabis use and workplace ethics.

Want to get your New York Medical Cannabis Card? Veriheal can connect you with a licensed physician in your area.

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