Yuba-Sutter Chamber of Commerce CEO Rikki Shaffer recently wrote a business column urging employers to take a look at their policies concerning the “changing times” surrounding recreational marijuana.

In an interview, Shaffer said the column was prompted by inquiries from local businesses about the potential impact of recreational marijuana in the workplace.

“It’s a question that continually arises,” she said.

She’s not the only one who’s been thinking about the issue, since state voters last year approved an initiative that will allow recreational use marijuana.

Marysville city attorney Brant Bordsen said dealing with the effects starts with an employer’s written policy.

[related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”curated” curated_ids=”2604″]”If it sits on the shelf and gathers dust, it means nothing unless it’s implemented,” Bordsen said.

Bordsen cited a 2008 California Supreme Court case, Ross v. RagingWire Telecommunications, in which the court held that employers are not required to accommodate an employee’s medicinal marijuana use as a reasonable accommodation under the state’s Compassionate Use Act.

Gary Ross, the plaintiff, was terminated from his position at the telecommunications company in 2001 after testingpositive for THC, the principal constituent in marijuana. Ross is a U.S. Air Force veteran and in 1999, began using marijuana on his physician’s recommendation for injuries sustained while in the service, according to case law information.

“The policy prevailed over the (medical marijuana) card,” Bordsen said.

So, it’s clear that if an employee is under the influence on the job, they can face disciplinary actions if it violates the employer’s policy. What isn’t clear, is if someone faces the same consequences if they smoke marijuana — recreationally or medically — during nonwork hours, when THC can stay in someone’s system for days or weeks.

A statement from Yuba City stated that the change in state law has not affected its standard drug testing procedures for employees.

The city’s drug policy states that managers or supervisors may request that an employee submit to a drug/alcohol test when they have reasonable suspicion that an employee is intoxicated or under the influence while on the job or standby duty.

“Reasonable suspicion” can include slurred speech, alcohol odor on breath, unsteady walking or movement, accident involving city property, physical or verbal altercation, unusual behavior, or information obtained from a reliable person with personal knowledge, according to the policy.

If a drug screen is positive at the pre-employment physical, the applicant must provide within 24 hours of request, “bona fide” verification of a valid current prescription for the drug identified in the drug screen.

If a drug screen is positive during employment physicials or drug/alcohol testing, the employee must also provide a valid and current prescription, but the city “shall conduct an investigation to gather all facts.”

“The decision to discipline or discharge will be carried out in conformance with Personnel Rules and Regulations section 1.16,” it’s stated in the policy.

In her column, Shaffer discussed local businesses being prepared to comply with the state’s changing laws surrounding marijuana.

“Employers are legally obligated to protect the health and safety of workers, the public, and the environment. But they also have a legal obligation to respect workers’ human rights and privacy, which is where things can get tricky,” Shaffer wrote. “When an employee claims a medical need for cannabis, it must be treated like any other prescription drug, however, that does not grant permission to use marijuana in the workplace.”

In her column, Shaffer echoed Bordsen’s sentiments that written policies are the best way to go.

“Employers continue to have the right to prohibit impairment at work, particularly if workers are in safety sensitive positions such as operating machinery,” she wrote. “For workers in non-safety sensitive positions, employers should still clarify expectations with clearly-written policies that address issues like not using any drugs on workplace property, no unexcused lateness or absences, and no sharing of prescriptions.”

© 2017 Marysville Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, Calif.) Visit The Appeal-Democrat at www.appeal-democrat.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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