October 5, 2015

Can Workers In Oregon Still Get Fired For Marijuana Even Though It’s Legal Now?

October 5, 2015
Urine Sample, how to pass a drug test

drug test testing welfareOregon voters approved marijuana legalization during the 2014 Election. The possession and cultivation provisions of the approved initiative went into effect on July 1, 2015. On October 1, 2015 limited recreational marijuana sales began. It seems like around the election, around July 1st, and especially since October 1st, I’ve been inundated with questions from Oregon readers regarding marijuana and employment based drug testing.

I have been asked quite often ‘can employers still drug test me for marijuana even though it’s legal?’ Sadly, yes they can still drug test you. Federal employment laws trump state employment laws, so as long as marijuana is illegal at the federal level, employers can legally drug test for marijuana. I’m not saying I agree with it, but that’s the current state of things, so be advised.

The more popular question I get is ‘can I be fired for having marijuana in my system, even though marijuana is legal to consume at work?’ Again, sadly, the answer is yes, you can be fired for failing a drug test for marijuana even though it’s legal to consume in Oregon now. Again, I point to federal law. For the same reason that people can drug test you prior to employment, they also can drug test you during employment and don’t have to respect state laws.

My work for the longest time had a zero tolerance policy towards marijuana. On July 1st they sent out an e-mail stating that people could consume marijuana when they aren’t at work, but not prior to coming to work, not on breaks, and not on lunches. ‘Treat it like alcohol,’ the e-mail from HR said. Even with that assurance from my employer, there is still at least one scenario for which I can still be fired. If I am hurt at work, and am required to file an incident report and/or file a worker’s compensation claim, I will be drug tested as part of the process, and if I test positive for marijuana, I will be fired.

So even in Oregon, working for an employer that allows marijuana consumption off work hours, employees can still be fired for a failed drug test. I have received these questions from CDL drivers and potential CDL drivers probably the most. My dad and uncle are CDL drivers, and believe me, they would practically do anything to be able to consume marijuana. But as I’ve pointed out to them, and pointed out to readers that have sent me questions around that topic, CDL drivers are heavily regulated by federal law, and there will always be the looming possibility of a random drug test at work and/or at commercial motor vehicle weigh stations and checkpoints.

Moral of this story is consume wisely, know the risks that you may be taking, and if you are a CDL driver, never, ever consume marijuana if you want to keep your job. Again, I’m not saying any of this should be the way that it is. In fact, I disagree with it strongly. But, I’d hate to see someone think that they are in the clear, just to lose their job and not be able to cover their bills, especially if they have a family.


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