N.Y. marijuana law Q&A: employment and public use

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- Many questions were raised after New York legalized recreational marijuana earlier this year. It could take up to two years for the state to iron out every aspect of the law but The Towne Law Firm, P.C. (TLF) said employers should start revisiting company policies now.

The law firm held a webinar to help guide employers through New York’s marijuana legislation on Thursday. Although geared towards assisting employers, what they revealed told a lot about how the law will affect employers, employees, and public use in general.

1. Can I be fired for using marijuana?

Employers cannot take action against an employee solely on the basis of off-site, after-hours recreational marijuana use unless one or both of these conditions are met: it’s required by state or federal law; it would cost the employer to lose either federal funding or a federal contract.

2. What happens if I test positive for marijuana use?

Testing alone is not likely to be enough to terminate somebody unless there is a state or federal law that is implicated specific to that employer, said TLF Attorney, Colin Boyle.

3. Are there exceptions?

If having a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is a term and condition of employment, there may be grounds for discipline based on a positive marijuana test, Boyle said.

4. Can I smoke weed on my lunch break?

Employers can take disciplinary action for employees who are visibly impaired by marijuana on the job. “Impaired” means that the employee shows specific articulable symptoms that decreases their performance or duties.  

5. In N.Y. people are allowed to have three ounces of marijuana on them, can I bring it to work?

Employers should have policies in place to address this. Employers may have policies in place that prohibit employees from possessing marijuana on the job.

6. Can I smoke marijuana in public?

Smoking marijuana is tied to New York’s Clean Air Act, the same as tobacco products. It allows weed to be smoked in the same places tobacco is, said TFL Attorney Christine Taylor. This could change, but ” generally you can’t say you can’t smoke weed here if you allow tobacco,” she said. Localities could also eventually make further laws regulating public use. Federal property is an exception.

7. There are no dispensaries in N.Y. yet, can I go to Massachusetts to purchase marijuana products?

Yes, but it’s illegal to bring marijuana products across state lines because it hasn’t been legalized by the Federal Government.

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