With Election Day behind us, we get to stop hearing all the political ads and commercials that plague our TVs and radio stations with the same dribble that seems to be repeated every time elections come around. Signs for candidates get pulled from our front lawns and candidate supporters stop crowding our street corners cheering vote for this, that or anything else.

But one thing that does not seem to be going away is the push for the legalization of marijuana. In fact, it seems the opposite is happening: more and more people are speaking up in favor of it, which is leaving many state governments in a bit of jam. Currently there are 23 states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes only.  Several states –Colorado and Washington-had already fully legalized it (both medicinally and recreationally) and this year’s election added two more states-Oregon and Alaska-to fully legal marijuana status (Washington, D.C. also approved legal recreational use of pot, however this is subject to Congressional review as D.C. is only a territory and not a state). Other states, such as Florida, tried to pass medicinal marijuana laws, but failed to acquire enough votes to pass any legislation.

So the country, while still divided on the issues of medicinal and/or recreational marijuana, seems to be progressing forward. On top of all the “legal for medicinal-legal for recreational” debating among the states, the federal government still classifies it as an illegal substance. This is why the insurance companies will not cover the costs for medicinal marijuana: It’s not FDA approved!

This dilemma over the legalization of marijuana is leaving business owners scratching their heads. In states where marijuana is already legalized business owners are having a hard time because they do not know how to address the issue. Questions arise over how to enforce, regulate and/or prevent marijuana policies.

If the federal government considers it an illegal substance, and insurance companies do not cover it, then is the business with its own health plan for employees required to cover it? Is the business still considered a “drug-free” work place if an employee has a prescription from their doctor to use a drug that the state says is ok but the feds say otherwise? If a company has a policy against the use of cannabis, is it possible to terminate people if they test positive for it even though they may have used it a home and not at work? Is the company legally responsible if something happens on the job if the employee is high? Can a company deny the use of marijuana at work even if it is medically prescribed? Are random drug tests considered discrimination under the Disabilities Act?

This is a small list of questions that need to be addressed. There is little doubt that marijuana has its uses for medicinal purposes. It would also help alleviate the over-crowding of the prison system, create more jobs, increase tax revenue, lower the cost police officers and governments have to spend on combating its use, and help cancer patients with treatments and appetite regulation. Add the fact that our society (and government) allows for much more harmful substances such as cigarettes and alcohol to have free range in the market just increases the amount of contradictions that are piling on to the debate.

But no one is addressing how this will affect other businesses and their ability to manage the use of marijuana by its employees. We have proven that prohibition was a failure and went back to allowing people to buy and sell alcohol. This wasn’t a problem for businesses: no drinking on the job. Cigarettes are allowed to be smoked on breaks and sometimes even in certain parts of the buildings. But pot? The shoulders get shrugged and hands thrown in the air with mindset of “I have no idea.” Meanwhile, the varying levels of our government are grazing on the same grass on opposite sides of the fence.

So business owners and managers, I pose the question to you: How do you feel about legalizing pot and what are your concerns? If you are in a state where marijuana is legal for any reason, how are you dealing with these issues?

Chadd Brown
Super Tool, Inc.