Ongoing Marijuana Legalization Impacts Job Prospects Even for Non-Users

As supporters in states across the country celebrate the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana, employers face a need to grapple with what this means for their hiring practices. Those who wish to legally use marijuana also wonder what these changes mean for their ability to seek employment. As it turns out, even associating with legal marijuana can have consequences. 

Mindful of the fact that cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, and unsure of the potential liability they might face, many employers have chosen to maintain zero-tolerance policies. Some have made changes out of necessity, while others have called for clarification of confusing regulations. What is clear is the changing social attitude on marijuana creates a complex situation in the business world. 

Outside of business, legal cannabis has impacted individuals who have little to no personal association with the drug. Such was the case when a Colorado student hoping for a shot on the baseball team at Wesleyan received a terse email from the coach denying him outright based on his state of origin. The reasoning: Colorado students failed drug tests due to marijuana use, so the coach made the decision not to spend time vetting any more CO residents. The story made headlines rapidly, and ultimately resulted in the coach's firing. Wesleyan termed the coach's response "discriminatory."

This problem – guilt by association" with legal marijuana – can follow those who've worked in cannabis cultivation or sales, too. After confirming an applicant's employment history, hiring managers may find themselves wary about ordering a drug test for an applicant they feel is certain to fail for marijuana usage even though working with cannabis as a product is no guarantee of personal usage. 

Many drug tests, including those available through, screen for other drugs besides marijuana. Employers who wish to overlook an applicant's personal use can still ensure no other, harder drugs are in the individual's system. Such tests won't go away anytime soon since, according to recent surveys, a majority of Americans still support pre-employment drug testing. As more states consider decriminalization and legalization, how businesses and organizations choose to handle drug testing policies may need to change.

That has been the case with the Seattle Police Department. Until very recently, the PD's policy was that an applicant to become an officer must not have used marijuana for at least three years prior. With Washington State's legalization of the drug, the department found itself in a position where its policies needed a revision. Today, applicants must not have used the drug within one year of their application date. In legal states like Colorado, where low unemployment numbers put labor at a premium, many employers are also finding they must reconsider rejecting individuals based on their usage.

For now, marijuana users remain unprotected due to the substance's Schedule I status at the federal level, and businesses may still deny employment based on any drug use, including legal cannabis. To aid in making employment determinations in accordance with relevant state and federal guidelines for fair practices, can provide your company both with drug screening services and a comprehensive background check that can reveal drug-related convictions. With the cloudy legal situation surrounding marijuana usage, such levels of clarity can be very helpful in your hiring processes.


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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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