State Issues Marijuana Guidance for Employers

Draft regulations on home growing released 

Public and private employers in New York state cannot test employees for marijuana or prohibit their use of it away from work, according to new guidance released last month by the state Department of Labor. 

The newly created Office of Cannabis Management also released on Wednesday (Nov. 17) draft regulations governing the growing of marijuana for private use. 

Under the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act enacted in March, adults 21 years old and up can legally possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana and up to 24 ounces of concentrated cannabis for personal use, and will eventually be able to buy pot at retail dispensaries. (Cold Spring voters approved retail sales in a ballot proposal this month and Beacon is expected to allow them, as well.) 

Because marijuana is now a legal product, businesses and local governments are barred from discriminating against employees who smoke when not at work, and cannot test for marijuana unless required by state or federal law, the employee shows signs of being high at work or the employer risks losing a federal contract or funding. 

While testing can detect the active ingredient in marijuana in the body long after its use, it cannot be the sole reason for concluding that an employee was impaired while working, according to the guidance. The law also bars employers from firing an employee whose body smells of marijuana and from requiring that workers do not use the drug during non-work hours. 

Employers can take action when, while working, an employee exhibits “specific articulable symptoms of cannabis impairment” that affect performance or “interfere with the employer’s obligation to provide a safe and healthy workplace as required by state and federal workplace safety laws.” 

While possession became legal in March, the cultivation of marijuana plants at home for personal use will take longer. 

Under draft regulations published in the New York State Register on Wednesday, individual adults will be limited to three mature (budding) and three immature plants, with a cap of six mature and six immature plants at any residence. 

Growers will have to protect plants from anyone under 21 years old in their households and will be barred from selling plants or seeds, although they can “transfer, without compensation,” up to 3 ounces of cannabis and up to 24 grams of concentrated cannabis to another adult, 21 and older. 

Comments on the draft regulations can be sent by Jan. 16 to Blaise Gibson, Office of Cannabis Management, Bldg. 9 Harriman Campus, 1220 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12226, or by email to [email protected]

Comments are closed.