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When hiring, does marijuana use matter?

Using a federal checklist can help you decide

Posted March 12, 2021 

When you’re looking for the right job candidate, marijuana use might be a stumbling block.

A candidate’s resume might be quickly placed into the “No” pile because of a past conviction for marijuana possession. Or maybe the candidate failed a drug test.

With marijuana legal for recreational use in 15 states and medical use in 36, it may be tougher to find candidates who aren’t excluded for these reasons. Marijuana issues don’t need to be the end of the road for these applicants, however.

Given the trend toward marijuana legalization across the country, the federal government is addressing this issue in its hiring practices. Its suggestions on how to handle marijuana use make sense in other workplaces as well.

Items to consider

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which sets hiring standards for federal employees, has sent a memo to department and agency leaders with advice on when to take marijuana use or a marijuana-related conviction into account in hiring.

Here is the list of items the federal government takes into consideration:

  • The nature of the position for which the person is applying or in which the person is employed;
  • The nature and seriousness of the conduct;
  • The circumstances surrounding the conduct;
  • The recency of the conduct;
  • The age of the person at the time of the conduct;
  • Contributing societal conditions;
  • The absence or presence of rehabilitation or efforts toward rehabilitation.

Under this guidance, a person is not immediately rejected for a job because of marijuana use. Other circumstances are taken into consideration.

Takeaways for employers

When hiring, marijuana use might not be a deal-breaker. Take time to assess whether a job candidate’s past marijuana use needs to be considered based on the position you’re hiring for.

Sometimes past or current marijuana use is absolutely not allowed. For example, a commercial truck driver who is regulated by the Department of Transportation needs to be removed from a safety-sensitive position after testing positive for any illegal drugs, including marijuana.

For other positions, testing for marijuana or a conviction for possession of a small amount of the drug might not be as critical. Using the checklist above can help you think through the issue and decide how it relates to the position you’re hiring for.

Your policy

After a candidate is hired, the candidate can be expected to adhere to your company’s drug and alcohol policy.

Your policy will depend on your workplace needs and state laws. In all states, employers can prohibit:

  • Marijuana use in the workplace,
  • Marijuana possession in the workplace,
  • Impairment from marijuana use during work hours.

Make sure all job candidates and employees are aware of your policy and expectations.

This article was written by Terri Dougherty of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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