Vermont is first state to pass recreational marijuana legalization bill without voter referendum
– going to Republican governor to sign
Written by Lucas Kibby, CleanFleet
Vermont’s drug testing law is one of the most restrictive in the nation. Random testing is prohibited and some type of EAP or referral service is required in order to conduct drug testing. This law also applies to public sector workplace drug testing.
However, on May 10th, 2017, the Vermont House of Representatives passes 79-66 a compromised bill to legalize marijuana after the state Senate passed the bill and is now ready for Republican Governor Phil Scott to either sign the bill, veto, or allow bill to pass without his signature.
This is the first time recreational marijuana legalization has the chance to become law through the legislative process versus voter referendum and, if signed, Vermont will join eight other states and Washington D.C. with legal recreational marijuana. There are similar bills to legalize marijuana in other state legislators.
This bill, with an effective date of July 1, 2018, would be a big first step in setting up the legal marijuana market, but “there’s no slam dunk of any kind. It’s just doing work that could be used next year and subsequent years,” Democratic Rep. Barbara Rachelson said about the bill.
What’s in the Vermont bill that will legalize marijuana?
The bill would legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, two mature or four immature marijuana plants for adults older than 21. The bill also sets up a nine-member commission to study the best way to regulate marijuana in the state, which includes drafting a system to tax marijuana, that “increases public safety and reduces harm to the public.”
Republican Rep. Scott Beck, who voted against the bill, was worried about how legalizing marijuana will affect the youth in the state. “The data indicated that our youth are using marijuana more infrequently, and I don’t think we should put that in jeopardy,” he said.
However, the bill would continue to prohibit driving under the influence of marijuana and the use of marijuana in public places as well as allow employers, landlords, schools, and prisons to continue to restrict marijuana use.
Gov. Scott, who will decide to sign or veto the bill in order for it to become law, expressed concerns repeatedly about marijuana and highway safety. Marijuana positivity increased 20% in Colorado and 23% in Washington – both states where recreational marijuana use is legal from 2013 to 2014, according to Quest.
Also, in Washington, fatal road crashes involving marijuana has doubled after legalizing drug, approx. one-quarter of all drug treatment admissions are for marijuana, and nearly half of all treatment admissions for marijuana are under the age of 18 – this is the highest proportion for any drug.
What should employers in the state of Vermont do in order to prepare for legalized marijuana?
Marijuana and its negative effects and workplace risks should not be tolerated if safety is the main concern for a business, especially in safety-sensitive work roles, as should be the case with alcohol, opioids, and other drugs.
If your business is not federally regulated, you can set-up a policy wherever you feel comfortable starting: just pre-employment testing, only after post-accident testing, etc. Your program can even target safety-sensitive roles if you do not want a company-wide testing program.
Just remember, Vermont’s drug testing law is one of the most restrictive in the nation. Random testing is prohibited and some type of EAP or referral service is required in order to conduct drug testing. Also, only hair or urine testing is allowed for drug testing. This law also applies to public sector workplace drug testing. So, be specific on who you will drug test and when.
Finally, provide educational materials on the actual effects of marijuana to a person’s body and how it can negatively affect the workplace. Being open with your employees on why the drug and alcohol policies are in place is very important.
With laws surrounding marijuana legalization changing, staying on top of the law to make sure your workplace drug testing policy is compliant is daunting. Let the professionals at CleanFleet keep you in compliance and help keep your workplace safe. Call us at 503-479-6082.