It took New Jersey some time to finally get their new, legal cannabis industry up and running. Now that it is, some politicians feel that workplace safety could be an issue, and have introduced legislation to establish workplace safety laws in light of legalization.
Senator Paul Sarlo, a Democrat, introduced this legislation in order to make sure that cannabis laws would not negatively impact workers or employees while they are on the job. His goal is to promote workplace safety and keep things up to state and federal standards in order to ensure there are no negative impacts from legalization.
“Now that recreational marijuana use has been legalized we need to take additional steps to protect both employees and employers in jobs where safety standards are needed. There are state and federal rules for regulated industries and professions that need to be brought into conformance with marijuana legalization so that workers and others aren’t put at risk,” said Sarlo, who also acts as chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. “I have been outspoken on this issue and am now following through with legislation.”
If passed, this proposal would make sure that use of cannabis or alcohol are still prohibited on the job, despite the newly legal status of cannabis. The bill also addresses conflicts including drug testing, healthcare, cannabis as medicine, law enforcement, childcare, and other jobs that should not be worked under the influence, such as construction and heavy machinery operation. The goal is to protect workers’ rights when it comes to cannabis use, but also ensure things are kept professional in the workplace.
“Marijuana may be legal, but it’s not safe for certain workers to be under the influence while on the job. There should be no confusion about workers’ rights and employer responsibilities to protect workplace safety,” Senator Sarlo added. “At the same time, I want to protect innocent employees who use recreational marijuana on their own time without realizing they could unknowingly put their job at risk by violating the drug-free workplace standards.”
Changes to Existing Regulations
There are some workplace regulations already in place in New Jersey. In order to make sure employees are not using cannabis on the job, employers can drug test, evaluate employee performance, and take extra precautions in the cases of construction work or operating heavy machinery.
Under the new rules for legal cannabis in New Jersey, employers can still maintain cannabis-free workplaces, but they can only call for drug tests if the employer has reason to suspect cannabis is being used on the job, the person seems intoxicated or high, a work-related accident occurred, or if random drug testing is already part of the employers’ program.
“As legalization becomes reality, regulations are issued, and cannabis-related issues percolate in the workplace, we will see the rights and responsibilities of employees and employers further defined by the courts and regulatory agencies,” The National Law Review writes. “This may expand employer exceptions (including for safety-related jobs), define what constitutes “reasonable suspicion” permitting employers to require drug testing, and more.”
The state of New Jersey is still working out many kinks when it comes to the new legal system, but legislation is already in the works to make things run more smoothly.