Get Blitzed and Get Busted: Marijuana Use at Company Holiday Parties

The holiday season is officially here! Companies across the state will be kickstarting festivities by gathering together for a fun night out. Drinks will be flowing and laughter will be filling the air, but now marijuana may be too. As everyone knows, Ohio voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana usage by adults who are at least 21-years-old in November. Just as an over-served employee can quickly become a liability to your company, so can employees who show up stoned or get high in the middle of your event. So how is legalization going to impact your holiday parties moving forward?

The legalization of recreational marijuana does not prevent employers from instituting or retaining a Drug- and Alcohol-Free Workplace Policy. Employers have the ability to ban employee use, possession, or distribution of marijuana on company property or at company sponsored events. Employers have the ability to determine the consequences for marijuana use. This means that employees who are caught getting high during a company event can face penalties and discipline, up to and including termination. Employers reserve the right to drug test if an employee gets into a workplace accident or if there is reasonable suspicion an employee is under the influence while working. Most importantly, employers should know that all of their workplace policies still apply to company parties off site. Bottom line: It does not matter where your party is, employees cannot use a company party as a reason to go wild and get high.

Employers should take the time to review their company’s Drug- and Alcohol-Free Workplace Policy, and consider reminding employees of its existence, before the next company event. It is important that employees understand marijuana absorbs into the body differently than alcohol. Unlike alcohol which can leave your system within a day, marijuana can stay in your system for up to 30 days.

Put another way, employees who smoked, took a gummy, or ate an edible at the company event can test positive later that week, or even later that month. There is currently no test on the market to pinpoint when marijuana was ingested, just that it had been ingested. Employees who test positive for marijuana can find themselves facing serious consequences all because of their decisions at the holiday party.

With Ohio officially legalizing marijuana, there is no better time than now to review your company’s Drug and Alcohol Policies to ensure your company is protected. Bricker Graydon’s labor & employment team is here to help.

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