BY FORREST FLINN
Today, as of this writing, ten states have enacted recreational marijuana use laws with more to come. Also, thirty-three states plus the District of Columbia permit the medical use of marijuana under certain circumstances and with specific conditions. The owners of today’s modern powersports dealerships must understand the legal environment in which they operate concerning the ever-changing laws regarding medical and recreational marijuana use.
The purpose of this blog is to help a dealer start to understand what they are up against and to help them address the issues before they become expensive lawsuits.
Currently, under federal law, the sale and use of marijuana, for medical or recreational use, is illegal. The stance of the Obama administration was to turn the other cheek and ignore those states that have opposing laws. This, in turn, started one of the most significant social experiments of our time. It all started with Colorado, and now we are up to ten states that have legalized recreational marijuana laws on the books. It is believed that by the year 2020, which is just around the corner, another five states will have legalized medical and/or recreational marijuana. This trend is not going to slow down or go away, so it is essential to understand the potential impact on your dealership.
What do I do since recreational marijuana is legal in my state? Do I have to tolerate employees that use marijuana?
The answer is sticky and requires that you fully understand your state and federal laws. Regardless of what your particular state’s laws are, the one big thing that you must have is a policy regarding the recreational and medical use of marijuana. This policy should be reviewed by human resource and legal professionals and should be applied uniformly across the dealership. Having a policy in place, and then only enforcing it part of the time, is an invitation for possible discrimination claims.
What if I want to have a zero-tolerance drug policy in my dealership?
Many state laws have provisions in them that do not prohibit an employer from enacting policies, such as a zero-drug tolerance policy. Also, most states do not require a dealership to provide accommodation for recreational users. At the time of this writing, no state law provides protections for recreational marijuana users. Also, currently, no state law prohibits a dealership’s right to have a zero-tolerance drug policy.
What other issues should I take into consideration when addressing a volatile issue such as recreational and medical marijuana legislation?
I wish I could tell you that there are uniform ways to address this complicated issue, but below are some key things to keep in mind regarding marijuana use and your dealership:
- Strive to maintain a drug-free dealership. It has been proven that drug-free workplaces are more efficient, productive, and profitable. In some cases, insurance companies offer cheaper rates for businesses that foster drug-free environments.
- Depending on your state, you will have to understand that you may need to provide reasonable accommodation for the medical use of marijuana. Make sure you consult an HR professional to understand the impact on dealerships that operate in states that permit medicinal use.
- Determine your drug testing policy and enforce this policy uniformly across all levels of the dealership.
- Notify applicants and employees of testing procedures.
- Train supervisors to understand and recognize the signs of marijuana in the dealership.
- Determine how to handle the test results. If you are testing for cause, and an employee fails the drug test, you may want to consider a second chance through counseling and follow up. Sometimes this can be just the thing to help an employee kick an addiction.
So as you can see from this blog on the topic, medical and recreational marijuana issues are on the rise and need to be faced head-on. You also learned from this blog that you can have a zero -tolerance policy even though you live in a state where recreational marijuana is legal. Currently, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. As time goes on, more and more states are going to adopt pro-marijuana laws. As complex as the issues are or are going to become, please always seek the advice of a human resource professional or labor attorney when dealing with these types of workplace issues.
Don't bury your head in the sand and ignore the issues.
After all, it is just good business.
Forrest Flinn, MBA, PHR, SMS has been in the motorcycle industry for more than 20 years and has been a true student and leader serving in various capacities. He previously worked as an implementation consultant for Lightspeed and as a general manager with P&L responsibility for a large metro multi-line dealership. Currently Forrest is the managing partner and chief visionary for a consulting firm that specializes in outsourced accounting, human resources, social media strategy, dealership operations consulting and Lightspeed/EVO training.