WASHINGTON — A low unemployment rate and the spreading legalization of marijuana have led many businesses to rethink their drug testing policies for the first time in decades. A small but increasing number are simply no longer testing for pot.

For small businesses, however, how to handle these challenges may be a tougher call than for bigger corporations. There is a bewildering patchwork of state laws regarding medical and recreational marijuana use. And it’s still illegal under federal law. Yet smaller companies don’t have extensive HR and legal departments to help them sort through it all.

“There is a lot of conflict there, and many employers, they just don’t know what to do,” said Kathryn Russo, a lawyer at Melville, New York-based firm Jackson Lewis. Recreational marijuana use is legal in nine states plus Washington, D.C., and medical marijuana is legal in 29 states.

Here are some questions small businesses need to consider when deciding on what drug testing policies to follow:

— IS IT A FEDERALLY REGULATED POSITION, OR SAFETY-SENSITIVE?

Employment lawyers say these cases are the easy ones. If your business is regulated by the federal Department of Transportation or is a defense contractor, you are likely legally required to drug test for all drugs illegal at the federal level, including marijuana. Similarly, if a job raises safety concerns — such as a forklift driver, an operator of heavy factory equipment, or a meat slicer — it’s in the best interests of the employer to still test for pot, even if it is legal in your state.

— DON’T DISCRIMINATE

In states where medical marijuana is legal, small businesses increasingly risk running into legal trouble if they deny a job to someone who has obtained a medical marijuana prescription.

Until last year, courts typically deferred to employers who

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