For citizens of Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota, 11/3 may become another 4/20, as on Election Day, voters in those states approved initiatives to joining 11 other US states that previously decriminalized recreational adult use of marijuana. Employers in those states however may not be as enthusiastic, since approval of recreational marijuana use undoubtedly will impact how they deal with applicants and employees when it comes to marijuana-related issues, as well as their overall approach to substance abuse and drug testing policies. It’s therefore important for employers to understand the implications these developments may have on how they approach the use of marijuana by their workforce. This post primarily focuses on the evolution of marijuana laws in Arizona, where medical marijuana use has been legal for nearly a decade, and examines what the recent legalization of adult recreational marijuana use means for employers in the state, which may also serve as an example of how other states may take on this issue since it appears that attitudes towards marijuana legalization are substantially shifting, signaling that more states may approve of similar measures in the future.
Following a ballot proposition approved by voters in 2010, the Arizona legislature passed Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (“AMMA”). Different from most states’ medical marijuana statutes, the AMMA goes beyond permitting medical marijuana to also set out explicit employment protections that prohibit employers from discriminating against employees and applicants who hold a valid medical marijuana use card. Specifically, under the AMMA, Arizona employers cannot refuse to hire an applicant nor fire or otherwise punish an employee based on the individual’s status as a registered medical marijuana cardholder. Protections under the AMMA are not without their limits, however, and employers are not required to accommodate medical marijuana use, possession, or impairment on their premises or