Impact of Washington Marijuana Initiative 502 on the Workplace: Media Coverage

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*UPDATED, 12/21/2012

Stoel Rives partner Jim Shore has become a go-to source for news stories on the workplace impact of Initiative 502, the new Washington marijuana law meant to legalize, regulate and tax the sale of small amounts of marijuana to adults who are age 21 or older.

Shore is particularly knowledgeable about the application of the state's marijuana laws in the workplace, having successfully represented the employer in the seminal Washington Supreme Court case interpreting Washington's Medical Use of Marijuana Act. In that 2011 case, Shore persuaded the Court that the law does not protect medical marijuana users from adverse hiring or disciplinary decisions based on an employer's drug testing policy.

Following Washington voters' approval of Initiative 502 in the November 2012 election, Shore was sought out to help explain its potential impact on existing workplace drug testing programs and other policies pertaining to illegal drugs the workplace.

Through several interviews and articles, Shore has recommended that employers can remain consistent in their application of zero-tolerance drug testing policies. He urges them to review their policies now and communicate with their employees about those policies.

The day after the law's passage, Shore wrote about it on the Stoel Rives World of Employment blog. Subsequent media coverage has included:

Smoking pot on the clock gets another look

MS Money report cited remarks originally attributed to Shore in a prior article published by SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management).

"The simple answer is [the new state marijuana law] does not change an employer's rights," MS Money quoted Shore as saying. "Employers can still enforce the zero-tolerance policies and other drug-testing policies they have now."

Published by MS Money, December 20, 2012. 

New Pot Laws? No Worries

Workforce Management, a publication focused on HR professionals, asked Shore about revisions to company drug policies in light of I-502.

Shore said to make sure there are no loopholes, referring to written policies that say "illegal" drugs, rather than specifying "illegal under local, state or federal law." He also warned that prohibiting the condition of being "under the influence" allows too much wiggle room. "It's best to state flatly that "any detectable amount" found in a drug test will not be tolerated," he said.

Published by WorkForce Management, December 13, 2012.

Attorneys, businesses argue over marijuana legalization at work

In a KDRV TV report, Shore said that employers can continue to enforce zero-tolerance drug policies regardless of I-502.

"We still have this system of dual sovereignty where regardless of what the state of Washington, or any other state does to legalize marijuana, the federal government still treats marijuana as illegal for all purposes," Shore said.

Aired on KDRV TV, December 1, 2012. 

Clearing Up The Smoke For Wash. Employers Post-Election

Writing in Law 360, Shore noted that employers have a variety of sound safety, health and business reasons to have zero-tolerance drug testing policies and programs that test for illegal drugs, including marijuana.

Published by Law360, November 13, 2012. 

Five things employers need to know about marijuana and their workers

In an interview with Puget Sound Business Journal writer Greg Lamm, Shore pointed out, "I don't think this new law has any effect on an employer's rights for drug testing in Washington state."

He added, "But what it is going to do is cause confusion. It could cause confusion for employees, who might think, 'Oh, now I can smoke pot and go to work.'"

Published by the Puget Sound Business Journal, November 13, 2012. 

The battle is on: I-502 vs. drug-free policies at work

In a Seattle Times article, Shore was quoted saying that employers have good reasons — from productivity to absenteeism to cheaper insurance coverage — to maintain drug-free workplaces. Furthermore, he advised employers to update policies to prohibit drugs illegal under state or federal law — "with an exclamation point on federal law," he said — and ban any detectable amount. "It takes the gray area away."

Published by the Seattle Times, November 17, 2012. 

New Marijuana Laws Don't Affect Employers' Rights

A large human relations management organization, SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management), sought Shore's advice regarding employer rights following passage of the measure.

"The simple answer is [the new law] does not change an employer's rights," Shore was quoted as saying. "Employers can still enforce the zero-tolerance policies and other drug-testing policies they have now."

He added, "While the new law's passage may be the social vanguard, marijuana remains as illegal today under federal law as it was before."

Published by SHRM Online, November 19, 2012. 

What Does Washington's Legalization of Marijuana Mean for Employers? Very Little

LXBN, the LexBlogNetwork, interviewed Shore via a Skype link. Shore said employers should "talk to their employees, [and] remind them of the drug-testing policies" to avoid confusion.

Posted on YouTube, November 19, 2012. Watch the video on YouTube.

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James M. Shore
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