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Posted by on Dec 11, 2012

Federal Grants Management and Legalized Marijuana

On Election Day, voters in Colorado and Washington approved ballot measures that decriminalized the use and possession of small amounts of marijuana. In direct conflict with these state laws is the federal Controlled Substance Act, which classifies marijuana as a Schedule I Controlled Substance. Many employers in these two states face uncertainty on how to implement drug-free workplace policies. These laws also present potential legal questions to grant recipients.

Currently, all grantees are required to implement and adhere to the requirements in the Drug-Free Workplace Act.  Since marijuana remains illegal on the federal level, grant recipients in these two states should continue to follow the terms and conditions of their awards and ensure employees do not use illegal drugs in the workplace.

The picture gets more complicated in Colorado and Washington, where grant recipient organizations could potentially be facing increased wrongful termination lawsuits from employees. To comply with the Drug-Free Workplace Act, many grantees conduct drug screening of employees. As state marijuana laws change, individuals who lose jobs or are denied employment after testing positive for marijuana might file lawsuits challenging their dismissal. However, in states that allow marijuana use of medicinal purposes, state courts have generally upheld an employer’s right to terminate an employee who has tested positive for medical marijuana use by citing the Controlled Substance Act’s recognition of marijuana as an illegal substance. Will that continue to be the case for states that decriminalize marijuana?

With the number of states legalizing medicinal and recreational marijuana increasing, grant recipients may be facing many additional legal questions on how to implement the terms and conditions of their awards while complying with both federal and state law. This poses a great question, what other issues might grant recipients be concerned with in states that have legalized, to any extent, marijuana? What are the appropriate proactive and reactive measures grant recipients in these states should be taking?

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