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U.S. House of Representatives Passes Cannabis Bill

U.S. House of Representatives Passes Cannabis Bill

This spring, the U.S. House of Representatives passed The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act by 220-204. This federal bill is designed to decriminalize cannabis use. If eventually signed into law, the MORE Act would help clarify for employers the often confusing conflicts between federal and state law when it comes to cannabis. 

While this bill aims to decriminalize the use of cannabis on the federal level, it’s important to note that state laws on the medical or recreational use of cannabis would still vary. 

At this point, though, the bill lies in the hands of the U.S. Senate. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer states that in order to pass the Senate, the bill needs Republican support. Split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, in the case of a tie vote, the deciding vote goes to Vice President Kamala Harris. However, in order to break a filibuster, the bill needs the support of 60 Republican senators.

 

State Cannabis Laws Remain Intact

Even with the passage of the MORE Act, states would still be in charge of regulating cannabis use in their state. States would not be required to legalize its use if they currently don’t do so. However, legalized cannabis is growing from state to state with medical marijuana use being legal in 37 states and recreational use also being legal in 18 of those states as well as the District of Columbia.

On the federal level, this act would de-schedule marijuana as it is still listed as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. This designation means it is seen as having no medical value and a high potential for abuse. De-scheduling marijuana by the federal government would remove criminal sanctions against it and provide relief for past convictions associated with it.

 

Changing Opinions

The growing number of states legalizing medical and/or recreational marijuana use reflects the increasingly changing attitudes about marijuana use by Americans. According to a recent Gallup Poll, 68% of Americans are in favor of legalizing marijuana. This rate is the highest in more than 50 years of polling. 

A similar poll from the Pew Research Group found that Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of legalizing marijuana. In that poll, 91% of U.S. adults supported some sort of marijuana legalization. Sixty percent of those adults responded that marijuana should be legal for both medical and recreational purposes.

Marijuana use is also on the rise as seen in the increasing number of people who fail marijuana tests. Quest Diagnostics, a leading provider of drug-screening services, reported that positive drug tests rose to their highest level in 20 years. The positivity rate for the U.S. workforce stands at 8.3% up from 3.6% in 2020.

 

Legalized Cannabis and the Workplace

Even in states where marijuana is legal for recreational and medicinal purposes, state laws vary greatly when it comes to workplace protection for use off the clock. For example, while fully legal in California, employers can legally have policies in place that prohibit any cannabis use by employees. 

Just recently, New Jersey and New York passed cannabis laws that included protections for workers. New York in particular prohibits any discrimination against employees who lawfully use marijuana on their own time. New Jersey’s is similar and also prohibits any adverse employment actions due to a positive marijuana test result. Employees can still be disciplined for being under the influence on the job or for possessing it on workplace property, but employees cannot be disciplined by employers for use in their personal time.

With staffing shortages in just about every industry, employers are also hesitant to even screen workers for THC with many dropping it from their drug screening profiles. Instead, employers are focusing on taking care of impairment while on the job. Many employers are choosing to train managers and supervisors to identify the signs that an employee may be under the influence instead of pre-screening employees before hiring them. Behaviors such as slurred speech, irritability, or nonresponsiveness serve as the basis for employers to then test employees for being suspected of being under the influence while on the job.

 

For the latest developments in the MORE Act or all things HR-related, turn to Complete Payroll’s blog site. There you’ll find articles to help you navigate your way through just about every HR situation you have. 

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