As of February 2021, marijuana use and possession in certain quantities became legal in New Jersey. Residents voted to legalize marijuana in the November 2020 election, and after taking some time to come up with the legal specifications, recreational marijuana in New Jersey was officially legalized at the beginning of 2021. New Jersey is now one of 16 states plus Washington DC and Guam that have legalized recreational marijuana use. With the new law in place, it leaves many employers wondering what to do regarding employee drug tests. A lot of companies drug test new employees before they are hired to ensure that they are clean. Additionally, some companies drug test their employees on a random basis throughout their employment. The question remains, what happens if an employee tests positive for marijuana – which is now a legal drug?
Marijuana in New Jersey
Before February 2021, medical marijuana use was legal in New Jersey, but recreational use was not. Now, recreational marijuana use and possession are legal. However, there are still very specific rules that apply. Here are some of the stipulations around the legalization of marijuana:
- Recreational marijuana use is only legal for adults ages 21 and over
- Possession of marijuana is only permitted up to six ounces
- Up to one ounce of marijuana can be purchased
- Possession of marijuana on school property is illegal
- License required for marijuana cultivation
- Driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal
Marijuana use has also been decriminalized for those under the age of 21. This means minors using marijuana will no longer face criminal charges. New Jersey law statute 2C § 35-5 notes the consequences for breaking marijuana laws, such as possessing more than six ounces of marijuana.
Different Companies, Different Rules
Companies are approaching drug testing for marijuana differently depending on their industry, locations, and personal philosophy. Since marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, many companies with locations across the nation are still not accepting positive marijuana tests. Before accepting positive drug tests, some companies take time to consider their industry. For example, a trucking business or a taxi business is much less likely to allow positive marijuana drug tests than other businesses, because driving under the influence is illegal and dangerous.
Sometimes it comes down to the personal philosophy of the owners. As more states legalize recreational marijuana, it is becoming more widely accepted than in the past. Many business owners are relaxing their standards for drug testing to allow positive marijuana tests. However, some business owners are still sticking to zero-tolerance policies. Discuss the specific standards at your job with your HR department.
Impairment at Work?
One reason some companies are hesitant to allow positive marijuana drug tests is the issue of being under the influence at work. Most companies don’t care if you smoke during your free time outside of work, but being under the influence on the clock is another story. Impairment from marijuana is much more difficult to detect than impairment from alcohol. This means employees could be working while high, and you might not even realize it. Workplace impairment comes into play when marijuana use affects aspects like productivity and professionalism.
Accuracy of Testing
Another issue about marijuana testing is the accuracy of the tests. Most marijuana tests will be positive if the person has used marijuana within the past few months. This means that even if you are smoking in your free time on the weekends, you will still get a positive test on Monday morning. It’s impossible for a marijuana test to detect whether the person is using marijuana off the clock or on the clock.
Involving an Attorney
Due to the infancy of marijuana laws in New Jersey, sometimes there are gray areas for what’s allowed and not allowed. If you feel like an employer has mistreated you due to a positive marijuana drug test, contact a local attorney like Leon Matchin. Leon is very familiar with the new marijuana laws in New Jersey and can study your situation to see if you have a case.
Legalization of Marijuana in New Jersey
The rules concerning the recent legalization of recreational marijuana in New Jersey aren’t always black and white. In fact, many areas are a bit hazy due to the newness of the law. One of these areas is how employers handle positive marijuana drug tests. There is no set law regarding how a company handles marijuana testing and the consequences for positive tests. Some companies have a zero-tolerance policy, while others are loosening their rules and seeing past positive marijuana tests. It all comes down to a company’s industry, its locations, and the personal values of the owners. As of now, there is no right or wrong answer.
So, where does that leave employees? Often it leaves them unsure about whether their legal use of marijuana on weekends or after work will cause them to face consequences at work or to lose out on potential new job opportunities. If you believe an employer or future employer is treating you unfairly due to a positive marijuana test, contact an attorney. An experienced attorney like Leon Matchin can help you to understand the new laws regarding marijuana in New Jersey and what your options are. Contact Leon Matchin by phone at 732-887-2479, or email him at [email protected]. He will set up a free, no-obligation consultation to review your case and go over your options.