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Workplace Drug Testing vs. Marijuana Legalization in Washington State and Colorado

Although some universities and organizations in Washington and Colorado have already issued statements that they are not going to change anything in their drug testing policy in response to the legalization of recreational marijuana use, others continue to consult with their lawyers and await further announcement from the government. Nothing within the provisions of Colorado and Washington State’s marijuana legalization measure specifically addresses employers’ rights to drug test their employees. Legal expert, Michael W. Groebe from Foley & Lardner LLP, advises employers to continue focusing on the employee’s conduct while at work because the new laws will unlikely protect them from discipline if they are under the influence of marijuana at work. Groebe also stressed that employers should remember that marijuana remains prohibited under federal law. “Even with Colorado’s ‘Lifestyle’ law that prohibits employers from disciplining employees for engaging in lawful conduct while off-duty, federal law still makes the use of marijuana unlawful,” he said. Additionally, if an employer requires drug testing, including the policy in the employee handbook and informing job applicants and existing employees could prevent the organization from wasting money on pre-employment drug tests.

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