As Marijuana Gains Legal Status, Can Employers Still Fire You for Testing Positive for Marijuana?

Human resources expert explains what employees and employers need to know about pot in the workplace

Medical MarijuanaAfter the 2018 midterms, three states voted in favor of marijuana legalization, with Missouri and Utah approving the drug for medical use, and Michigan approving it for recreational use. Additionally, states like Wisconsin and Illinois voted for several crucial medical marijuana and legalization measures.

But, what does this mean for employees and employers when it comes to marijuana and the workplace? Will these new regulations make drug testing a thing of the past?

Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA and human resources expert, says no.

“Employers can still administer drug tests and prohibit their employees from using or being under the influence of marijuana at work or during work hours. However, some state laws prohibit an employer from taking adverse employment actions against an employee based solely on a positive marijuana test.”

With this in mind, Wilson advises employers to become familiar with laws in their state that address drug testing.

“Some states require companies to create policies and procedures before they can facilitate a drug test,” says the human resources expert. “This means you need to ensure your employee handbook notifies employees that your company reserves the right to conduct various types of testing of alcohol and illegal drugs.”

Wilson also says that marijuana regulations will be greatly dependent on an employer’s industry.

“Employers who contract with the government, who are in regulated industries (e.g., air travel or trucking) or with employees operating machinery have a greater ability to test, discipline and terminate an employee for the presence of marijuana,” says the President of Employco USA, a national employment-solutions firm that is based in Chicago, Illinois.

Should an employee test positive for marijuana, Wilson says that employers should engage in an interactive process with the employee to determine if a reasonable accommodation is appropriate.

“Don’t automatically turn to termination,” says the employment expert. “Being open-minded and undergoing an explorative process is a wise choice. This is especially true if an employee tests positive for marijuana after a work-related injury. Employers should work closely with their HR or legal team before denying the claim.”

For more on this topic, please contact Rob Wilson at