In June, Amazon announced that it would no longer include marijuana in it’s drug testing program for positions not regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Marijuana use would be treated the same as alcohol use.

Amazon joins a growing list of companies that have shifted their workplace drug policies. However, most of those companies — unlike Amazon — have done so quietly. This shift can be attributed to a number of things: difficulty finding workers in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational and/or medical use, growing acceptance of marijuana use among the public, and an increasing number of states with laws permitting marijuana for medical and/or recreational use.

Currently, over two-thirds of states (36 states) allow for the medical use of marijuana and over one-third of states (18 states) allow for recreational use. Some of these states, including Nevada, also provide protections for employees and/or job applicants related to marijuana use. Nevada became the first state to prohibit employers from refusing to hire someone, with some exceptions, based on a positive marijuana drug test. New York and New Jersey followed suit with similar laws in 2021.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Marijuana is listed as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I substances are deemed to have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use, and lack accepted safety for use under medical supervision. However, there has been recent efforts to make changes to the law at the federal level as well. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which was reintroduced in May, would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and would create a federal tax on marijuana with revenue going to community reinvestment programs.

For employers considering making changes to their workplace drug policies, the difficulty comes with striking the right balance between safety and the realities of changing laws and public attitudes regarding marijuana. Like Amazon, employers may choose to continue to include marijuana for positions that are DOT-regulated or otherwise safety-sensitive. Others may choose to forego marijuana in certain types of drug testing and keep it for others. Still others may choose to eliminate certain types of testing completely. What route an employer chooses to go will largely depend on the nature of business operations, the number of safety-sensitive employees, and the level of risk the company is comfortable with.

Since safety is always a key consideration, it is important, regardless of the route an employer chooses to go, to ensure there are appropriate safeguards in place to ensure marijuana, or any drug for that matter, does not become a safety issue in the workplace. Employers should make sure their drug policies clearly define what reasonable suspicion is and when it exists and train employees to recognize the signs and symptoms of drug and/or alcohol use and document appropriately.

Nevada Association of Employers (NAE) can assist employers with reviewing policies to ensure compliance, training for employees and managers, surveys on company policies and employee engagement, and more. Not a member of NAE? Join today!