How New Jersey’s Recreational Cannabis Legalization Affects Employers

On February 22, 2021 New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation legalizing and regulating marijuana (cannabis) use and possession. The law, called “New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act” (NJCREAMMA), contains employment-related regulations, which employers must take into account in drafting hiring and workplace practices. For example:

Drug Testing: Employers can require pre-employment marijuana drug testing. However, employers are prohibited from taking adverse employment actions (regarding compensation, terms, conditions, or other privileges of employment) against an individual solely based on a positive marijuana result. NJCREAMMA outlines other instances that employers may drug test employees, including:

  • Reasonable suspicion an employee is using cannabis items at work or during work hours.
  • Observable signs of marijuana intoxication at work.
  • Work-related post-accident investigations.
  • Periodic or random screenings to determine a worker’s marijuana use during work hours.

Nondiscrimination: NJCREAMMA prohibits employers from taking adverse action against employees or job applicants based on their use of cannabis. Employers cannot terminate, refuse to hire an employee, or take any adverse action against an employee solely because of cannabis use. Employers can drug test employees for marijuana, but they cannot discriminate against them if they are legally utilizing marijuana products when they are NOT at work.

No Duty to Accommodate in the Workplace: Pursuant to NJCREAMMA, employers can continue to establish drug and alcohol workplace policies. Employers do not have to permit or accommodate cannabis use in the workplace or during work hours.

Decriminalization: NJCREAMMA also changed how employers address a job applicant’s marijuana-related criminal history for employment decisions. When making employment decisions, an employer is cannot rely on or require any applicant to disclose or reveal or take any adverse action against an applicant for employment solely because of an arrest, charge, conviction, or adjudication of delinquency for certain marijuana-related crimes.

NJCREAMMA changes the landscape for employers in the hiring and disciplinary practices involving the use of marijuana. That is why it is necessary to review existing workplace policies and make necessary changes, where applicable to those workplace practices. Employers should periodically review and update policies and handbooks to ensure compliance with not only NJCREAMMA, but also the myriad of laws and regulations that impact employment.  

At Peterpaul Law, LLP, our attorneys have vast knowledge of employment laws, including NJCREAMMA. We are here to counsel businesses in navigating the ever-evolving landscape of employment law, including updating policies and protocols. Contact us by emailing Luanne@Peterpaullaw.com or calling 732-455-8080 to get started.

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