Did you know that the government owns and operates a pot shop in North Bonneville, Washington, and its profits support city projects? Did you know that smoking marijuana in public is illegal in all 50 states? Did you know you could be fired for smoking pot? Even as marijuana gains legal status in states across the country, misconceptions about its use abound. Just five years ago, it was illegal to smoke recreational marijuana anywhere in the United States. Today, citizens of eight states and Washington D.C. legally own and smoke pot, and that number is expected to grow. To better understand the laws that apply to legalized marijuana, explore our list of commonly asked questions below.
What You Need to Know
In which states is marijuana legal?
First, note that laws applying to marijuana vary from state to state. Some states have legalized both medical and recreational marijuana, some have only legalized medical marijuana, and some have legalized neither.
Only four states allow anyone over the age of 21 to purchase recreational marijuana:
- Alaska (since 2016)
- Colorado (since 2014)
- Oregon (since 2015)
- Washington (since 2014)
In eight states and Washington D.C., anyone over the age of 21 is allowed to possess and use recreational marijuana. So in addition to the four states listed above, there are four states that allow for the possession and use of marijuana but forbid its sale. Why is this? Those four states only legalized marijuana last year, in 2016, and the state and local authorities are not yet prepared to give legal status to pot dispensaries, often due to issues with taxation and zoning.
The following states and district allow individuals over the age of 21 to possess and consume marijuana:
- Washington D.C.
Vermont was set to join this list; in fact, it became the first state to pass a law legalizing marijuana through the legislative process. However, Governor Phil Scott vetoed the bill on May 24, 2017. The future of legal recreational marijuana in Vermont is now uncertain.
Finally, as of June 15, 2017, medical marijuana is legal in 29 states as well as Washington D.C., Guam, and Puerto Rico. To review state medical marijuana laws, check out the website of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Can I take marijuana across state lines?
No, you can’t take marijuana with you when crossing state lines. Many people are surprised to learn that this is even true when two states that have legalized marijuana share a border, like Oregon and Washington.
Can I smoke and drive?
No. It is illegal to smoke and drive, and increased marijuana use leads to more danger on the road. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), marijuana can slow your reaction time, impede your ability to make decisions, impair your coordination, distort your perception, and more. Research conducted by Columbia University found that marijuana use increases the likelihood of the driver being involved in a fatal car accident by 80 percent.
Currently the police cannot accurately test drivers for marijuana use with a roadside test, like a Breathalyzer, making it difficult to assess the correlation between marijuana use and car crashes. Plus, if a driver has an illegal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level, the police may choose not to test for drug use at all. This will likely change as technology improves. In fact, some research groups and universities are already experimenting with a device known as a “potalyzer,” which can quickly detect the presence of THC in saliva and measure its concentration. The device is still in the development phase, however, and scientists have not yet established standard levels of impairment for marijuana.
Can I smoke marijuana in public?
No. It is illegal to smoke pot in public everywhere in the United States, even in the states that allow marijuana use.
Can my employer conduct a drug test for marijuana?
Yes. Employers may drug test for marijuana in all states, including those that have legalized recreational and/or medical marijuana.
Despite the new laws that legalize marijuana in certain states, maintaining a drug-free workplace remains as important as ever. Employees who abuse drugs, including marijuana, are more likely to become sick or injured, decrease productivity, distract coworkers, be absent from work, and pose a danger to themselves or others. To protect the health and safety of all employees and to prevent a reduction in productivity, employers may use drug testing to identify employees using drugs. Employers are also legally able to fire employees who test positive for marijuana use.
Medical marijuana brings up other issues. Employers cannot discriminate against employees who test positive for marijuana if that marijuana was legally prescribed by a physician. However, that doesn’t mean that employees can report to work impaired. Employees may not possess or consume marijuana in the workplace. If an employee exhibits impairment and tests positive for marijuana on the job, the employer may reprimand the employee, even if the marijuana was legally prescribed.
Remember that marijuana use is still illegal under federal laws. Thus, all workplaces that are (1) federally funded or (2) required to comply with federal regulations regarding the drug testing of workers in safety-sensitive positions must follow the standards of the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988, which names marijuana as a prohibited substance. For example, all safety-sensitive employees at the Department of Transportation are required to undergo regular drug testing.
How do employers begin drug testing programs?
Whether your company is located in a state with legalized marijuana or not, you can create and implement a drug testing program. We encourage you to begin by consulting an attorney and reviewing your current drug testing policy (if you have one). Keep your employees in the loop, address the changes you’re making, and explain the importance of maintaining a drug-free workplace. Next, be sure to educate and train all managers as you make changes to the policy.
When you’re ready to get started, contact Tomo Drug Testing. Based in Springfield (MO), St. Louis (MO), Kansas City (MO), Indianapolis (IN), and Evansville (IN), we offer customized solutions to make drug testing simple, and our nationwide network of clinics and providers allows Tomo Drug Testing to be available anytime, anywhere. For a free needs analysis, give us a call today at 1-888-379-7697 or contact us online. We would be happy to help!