Friday, June 5, 2015

Marijuana and Your Union Contract

Voters in Colorado, Washington, and the District of Columbia all recently voted to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes, and it appears that several other states may soon follow suit.  This brings up the interesting question of whether recreational marijuana use will result in termination, and most workers will not want to be the first person to ask their HR office if it is alright to smoke a joint over the weekend.

This issue presents an interesting predicament for many unions.  For instance, the CBA between the State of Washington and Teamster Local 117 has language that treats an employee with a CDL differently than an employee without a CDL due to language in the contract that has the national DOT standard that considers marijuana a controlled substance, where other employees have the following language that only bans illegal drugs:

"14.2   Possession of Alcohol and Illegal Drugs Employees may not use or possess alcohol in state vehicles, on agency premises or other governmental or private work sites where employees are assigned to conduct official state business except when the premises are considered residences. The unlawful use, possession, delivery, dispensation, distribution, manufacture or sale of drugs in state vehicles, on agency premises, or on official business is prohibited."

The interesting thing about marijuana is that urine testing is completely useless in states where marijuana is now legal, as a positive result from a urine sample in no way proves that the subject is under the influence.  If you are a worker represented by a union in one of the aforementioned states, you and your fellow workers should push your union to negotiate terms that require a blood test to determine if someone is under the influence, as marijuana only remains in the bloodstream for a few hours.

Going even further in that, workers in states where marijuana is legal should demand that their union negotiate language that is clear that only drugs that are illegal in that respective state are grounds for disciplinary action.  Leaving ambiguous language leaves an opening for employers to claim that since marijuana is still officially illegal under federal law, they can terminate an employee if they test positive.

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