Oregon: Recreational Marijuana

On November 4, 2014, Oregon voters passed Ballot Measure 91, legalizing the non-medical possession and use of marijuana for adults age 21 and older.   The law goes into effect July 1, 2015.


Q: What does this mean to Employers in Oregon?

A: On the surface, nothing. Measure 91 states that, “…this Act may not be construed: (1) To amend or affect in any way any state or federal law pertaining to employment matters.”


Q: Federal laws?

A: Yes, federal contractors subject to the Drug Free Workplace Act must continue testing. So do other employers currently required to test under federal regulations, e.g. Department of Transportation.


Q: What about OSHA?

A: Employers have an obligation to provide a safe workplace, which means ensuring your employees do not hurt themselves or others while working. If you permit impaired employees to create unsafe conditions, you expose your business to liability from both OSHA and third parties.


Q: I don’t test for drugs now. So I’m good right?

A: Under the law, yes, unless one of the above exceptions applies. Whether it makes business sense comes down to the effect not testing might have on your…

  • Employee productivity
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Insurance costs
  • Bottom line


Q: Okay, I DO test for drugs. What happens now?

A: Decide if you want to relax your drug and alcohol policy for marijuana. If you do, please contact Cardinal for advice.


Q: But I want to keep testing for marijuana. Can I really test for something the employee does on the weekend?

A: Yes. Until such time that reliable impairment measures are readily available, employers are safe with a zero tolerance policy.


Q: Why is Impairment an issue?

A: Unlike alcohol, with a well-documented correlation between blood content and level of impairment, marijuana does not. We don’t yet know how much marijuana it takes to impair motor skills. Nor do we know at what level mental and emotional impairment begins.   Science has yet to establish those benchmarks.


Q: So I can still terminate employees who violate my drug and alcohol policy by testing positive for marijuana?

A: Yes.


Background on DRUG TESTING and Marijuana  

In many ways we are revisiting questions from 1998 when Oregon became the second state to legalize the use of medical marijuana with the passage of Ballot Measure 67. Eventually the Oregon on employee use of recreational marijuana.