While Florida's medical marijuana industry is just getting into gear, it's important for construction business owners to understand how the legalization of the drug can affect the industry and its relationship with employees.
The days when you could simply drug test and deny workers' compensation to an employee who tested positive for medical marijuana is gone. You also can't just ignore the potential problem of having employees who are high on the job -- not unless you want to risk some serious litigation when one of the makes a mistake during a demolition or some other project.
Here are some basics you need to understand:
1. A medical marijuana letter and ID card don' exempt an employee from an employer's drug policy automatically. It is still considered an illegal drug under federal laws.
2. State law, however, may require you to make exemptions that federal laws do not. You have to be very careful to stay abreast of changing state laws and political currents on this issue.
3. Testing positive doesn't mean an employee was high at the moment a construction accident occurred. Whether the employee was the victim or the cause of the accident, tests for the active ingredient in marijuana don't show whether the drug was in use today, yesterday, or a few days ago.
4. You may have to make exceptions for a "drug-free workplace" due to medical marijuana in order to retain some of your best employees. However, that may mean giving up things like the discount that you get from workers' compensation for zero-tolerance policies.
5. You need a lawyer to help you come up with a plan that meets the current needs of the industry. Construction work, as an industry, has unique safety demands. That means that medical marijuana has to be addressed in a unique way in the employee rule book. Otherwise you're likely to end up in litigation with your employees as well.
Don't wait until you're in a construction dispute to hire an attorney, Being proactive is the best way to handle this tricky situation.