With marijuana sales set to begin, employers grapple with drug tests
By Katie Johnston Globe Staff June 12, 2018
For Massachusetts employers, marijuana is a potential minefield.
The drug is about to become more widely available as recreational sales start next month, yet many companies have no plans to stop screening workers for pot. But in doing so, businesses could open themselves up to lawsuits from workers who claim the test is discriminatory or who, with easier access to cannabis, use it to treat a medical condition without a prescription.
Companies that persist in drug testing could find themselves losing potential employees to businesses that don’t, a real risk in a tight job market. Even Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta recently questioned whether drug testing made sense for employers desperate for workers.
Further complicating the situation is that marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, so companies that do stop drug testing could face additional ramifications.
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“We’re stuck at the frontier of employment law,” said Boston employment attorney David Robinson. “No matter what you do, you’re at peril of someone challenging it.”
Some Massachusetts employers have already started treating marijuana like alcohol, telling workers that they can’t use it at work or bring it to work, but other than that it’s fair game. And several large companies around the country have stopped testing for marijuana altogether, from a manufacturer in New Hampshire to assisted-living facilities in Florida to the nation’s largest auto dealer.
But for safety-sensitive positions, where being stoned on the job could be dangerous, some employers will continue to conduct random drug tests, which, in effect, would bar employees from using marijuana on their own time because it can be detected in urine