Taking steps in advance of marijuana initiative: Alaska companies advised to review drug and alcohol policies.

Author:Orr, Vanessa

On November 4, Alaskans will vote on an initiative to allow people age twenty-one and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and up to six plants; Ballot Measure 2 also allows for the creation of marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, infused-product manufacturers and testing facilities. While the measure does allow employers to maintain restrictions on marijuana use by employees, it may be advisable to review company policies and procedures beforehand, to be prepared if the initiative passes.

"No stance is not a good stance; I cannot reiterate enough the importance of updating a policy to reflect a company's stance regarding marijuana as it will help to address problems before they arise," explained Ian Cooper, C-SAPA, drug and alcohol program supervisor, Beacon Occupational Health & Safety Services, Inc.. "Some companies will update their policies regarding marijuana use on the job if it becomes legal, but I also think that there are companies that will continue to view marijuana as a banned substance and as a positive result if it comes up on a drug test."

Voicing Concerns

"Some clients have already reached out to Beacon with their concerns about medical and recreational marijuana use in other states, and how it affects their company policy," Cooper says. "These potential changes should not have a huge effect on companies, as it really just requires a little fine-tuning of a company's drug and alcohol testing policy."

Even if the legalization law passes, companies will not be mandated to allow the use of medical or recreational marijuana by employees.

"As it stands federally, marijuana is still a Schedule I drug under the DEA's scheduling list. This means that, at this time, there is no current accepted medical use, and it is determined that it has a high potential for abuse," Cooper says. "And keep in mind, federally regulated positions under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Federal Transit Administration, Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, and United States Coast Guard do not accept the use of marijuana for any recreational purposes or medicinal purposes, as it still a Schedule I drug."

Federal Law Supersedes

Because federal drug and alcohol laws always supersede state laws, a company in Alaska can choose to allow or deny the use of marijuana, as they can divert to current federal laws, according to Cooper. "These protective...

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