July 2, 2021

More Recreational Marijuana Legalization, More Positive Workplace Drug Tests

Earlier in 2021, three states – Virginia, New York, and New Mexico – legalized recreational marijuana, and now Connecticut joins them after Governor Ned Lamont signed Senate Bill 1201 into law at the end of June.

The new Connecticut law legalizes recreational marijuana for adults aged 21 and over, effective July 1, 2021, and allows adults to possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis on their person, and a maximum of five ounces in their homes or locked in their car trunk or glove box. Retail sales will begin at the end of 2022 at licensed dispensaries. This law will also allow for limited home cultivation of cannabis and will expunge various marijuana crimes from January 2000 through October 2015.

The permissive nature of this law mimics other recreational marijuana bills recently enacted, and the total of states that now allow for legalized recreational marijuana is 19, plus the District of Columbia.

According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), several other states are considering recreational legalization this year, with pending legislation in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. Other states such as Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, Nebraska, and North Dakota have also considered but did not pass such legislation.

It is not outside the realm of possibility that more states will continue to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, which would have a significant impact across the country, including healthcare and workers’ compensation. At the moment, the question of determining employee impairment in states where marijuana use is permitted is still in the air, with various states mulling legislation to address these concerns.

What is known is that workplace drug testing has seen increases in marijuana use.

Quest Diagnostics, an organization that manages millions of workplace drug tests for employers, issued a new report in June that analyzed over 9 million drug tests from 2020. Marijuana positivity increased 16% across urine analysis from 2019-2020, reaching 3.6% across the general workforce.

Marijuana positivity rates were lower in states with only medical legalization or no form of legalization, while positivity rates were higher in states with legalized recreational use, indicating that employees indeed are taking advantage of recreational laws. In states with legalized recreational use, positivity rates increased 118.2% from 2012-2020.

There is no denying that the use of recreational marijuana continues to grow in popularity, with more employees using it and more states passing laws. While the implications for workers’ comp are still being discussed, the time to have these conversations is drawing more and more near as this movement continues to spread across the nation.

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