The state Legislature’s top Democrat assured that the rights of employers to enforce a drug-free workplace will be inscribed in a bill to legalize marijuana scheduled for a vote next week, and that current language in the legislation to suggest otherwise was the result of a “drafting error.”
“If it comes up in your system…You get a drug test and you’re going to fail, and if the employer has a zero tolerance policy, they’re either going to send you to rehab or they’re terminating you,” Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, told reporters following a Thursday voting session.
Senate Bill 2703, which NJBIZ obtained Wednesday, says that an employer cannot factor someone’s usage of marijuana in hiring or firing decisions, nor their prior criminal offenses related to cannabis — the former being a point of worry among business advocates.
Lawmakers expect to hold a committee vote on March 18 and a full vote in both the Assembly and Senate on March 25.
Employers still have the right to maintain a “drug and alcohol-free workplace” and can bar workers from bringing or using any cannabis at work.
The legislation also allows for employers to ban marijuana use among their employees if “a rational basis for doing so which is reasonably related to employment, including the responsibilities of the employee or prospective employee,” exists.
Jobs such as driver, heavy machinery operator or security provider could fall under this provision.
But determining whether someone is under the influence of marijuana at a given moment is difficult — as no breathalyzer equivalent exists. And tests could show marijuana in a person’s system for weeks, long after any impairment from the substance might have worn off.
“They’re coming up with a test and are getting more and more accurate and closer to it. It’s a swab test, and it’s being tested in places where they’re getting to a point where they can really start to narrow in when you last consumed,” Sweeney said Thursday.
The New Jersey Business and Industry Association, in a Thursday statement, reiterated that the legislation needs to include employer protections.
“Any legislation that legalizes recreational marijuana must state clearly that legalization does not repeal or restrict the rights and obligations of public and private employers to maintain drug-free workplaces,” NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Mike Wallace said in a statement.
“If marijuana is legalized, then that law must clearly state that legalization does not force an employer to accommodate the use of legal marijuana on the job or restrict existing drug-free workplace policies,” he added.