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New York State Legalizes Recreational Use of Marijuana and Adds New Protections for Employees

On March 31, 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), making New York the latest state to legalize recreational marijuana. The MRTA allows adults over 21 to possess, display, purchase, use, obtain or transport small quantities of cannabis. It also expanded protections for employees that use marijuana and prohibits employers from taking adverse action against them, as long as it’s outside working hours, not on company premises, and doesn’t use company property or equipment. While the MRTA allows employees to legally use marijuana before and after work hours, it does not allow them to report to work under the influence of marijuana or to use marijuana in the workplace.

New York employers should review their workplace drug and alcohol policies to ensure compliance with this new law, as employees can bring a civil suit for damages and the attorney general may also impose fines and penalties if found in violation. However, employers may continue to enforce policies that prohibit use or possession of marijuana on company premises and working while impaired by marijuana. Employers are also encouraged to reach out for assistance from their legal counsel and/or local employment attorneys for further guidance and interpretation of the new marijuana law.

Read the Human Resources Brief.

Contact your Cowden representative for more information on this or other compliance issues.