MARIJUANA LAW UPDATE

By Jeff Jones
Special to the UCBJ

Starting on Jan. 1, 2020, most Nevada employers will no longer be allowed to drug test potential new hires for marijuana use. Although many states have legalized medical and recreational marijuana use, Nevada is the first state to ban pre-employment drug testing for the substance. The Nevada law will make it unlawful for Nevada employers to refuse to hire job candidates who test positive for marijuana for most jobs. 

However, there are some exceptions. Employers will be able to screen and refuse to hire applicants for jobs as drivers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and other safety-sensitive jobs (jobs which “could adversely affect the safety of others”) if they test positive for marijuana. 

Employers with business operations in Nevada should review and revise their pre-employment drug testing policies before the new law takes effect. Nevada employers that drug test applicants will need to remove marijuana from the list of substances that will be tested. 

Nevada is the first state to pass a law like this, but it very likely won’t be the last. In April, New York City passed a similar local law that will also take effect in January 2020. 

As of today, while marijuana use is still illegal under federal law, 33 states have now legalized medical marijuana use, and 10 states (Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Michigan, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, California and Alaska) have also legalized recreational use. Illinois will be the 11th state to legalize recreational use, after its legislature recently passed a legalization measure. 

As a result of these recent developments, more employers, including in states where marijuana use has yet not been decriminalized, are deciding not to test every job applicant for marijuana use. Employers with multi-state operations that have blanket drug policies prohibiting marijuana usage may need to revise those policies in light of the legal liberalization of marijuana use around the country, including specifically in the employment realm.

Jeffrey G. Jones is a regional managing member for Wimberly Lawson Wright Daves & Jones PLLC. He can be reached at jjones@wimberlylawson.com.

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