AL employers grapple with changing laws and attitudes around cannabis

(Hawaii News Now)
Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 5:40 AM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - With several cities in Alabama preparing to allow medical cannabis dispensaries, some employers are rethinking how they handle drug testing.

An expert on employment law says people in jobs where safety is critical should still expect some level of testing.

But because recruiting and keeping employees is so difficult right now, Janell Ahnert, a shareholder at global employment law firm Littler Mendelson says navigating cultural and legal changes around medical cannabis is complicated for some companies.

“Employers who have good long-term employees who they don’t want to terminate, and those employees now have a medical marijuana card and have a prescription for medical marijuana and want to be accommodated,” says Ahnert. “Again, under the Alabama law, the employer doesn’t have to, but if it’s a long-term employee who has been contributing to your company, a lot of employers want to try to find a way to accommodate.”

Ahnert says her firm has been advising other companies in states that had already legalized medical cannabis or even recreational marijuana. She suggests that some employers are responding not just to changing laws, but so changing moods as well.

“It’s fine if an employee wants to use alcohol on the weekends or in the evenings, but they cannot come to work under the influence of alcohol. The issues we’re seeing is a lot of our drug testing hasn’t caught up yet. And so it’s often really hard to determine if an employee is under the influence or if they just still have cannabis in their system since it stays in your system for a longer period of time than alcohol does. So those are all complications for employers to work through.”

Ahnert says it is crucial for employers considering a change in policy to talk with an employment lawyer.

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