State employees in Michigan have been held to a different standard, in regard to marijuana consumption, ever since the state decriminalized medical cannabis in 2008. Michigan now allows recreational consumption as well. Fortunately for state employees, a new rule that levels the playing field between public and private sector workers has been adopted.
Slated to go into effect on October 1, 2023, the new rule eliminates marijuana testing for most state employees. Drug tests will still screen for amphetamines, cocaine, opiates, and PCP. Furthermore, certain job categories will not be exempt from marijuana testing.
Testing Limits the Applicant Pool
Marijuana testing for state employees was not considered a big deal a decade ago. But in recent years, thanks to a tighter-than-usual labor market, Michigan’s Civil Service Commission began questioning whether marijuana testing was limiting the applicant pool. They determined it was.
Some commissioners reasoned that such limits did not make sense. For example, why reject a job applicant who is more than qualified but has residual THC in his system from consumption that occurred months ago? Why reject an applicant who is more than capable of doing the job just because she uses medical cannabis?
Commissioners essentially decided that marijuana consumption should be a non-factor as long as employees don’t use it on the job and their off-site consumption doesn’t affect their job performance. With the new rule, marijuana will be treated much like alcohol in relation to state employment.
A Similar Law Passed in Utah
Michigan is not alone in green-lighting marijuana consumption among state employees. A similar law was passed in Utah in 2022. According to the Beehive Farmacy in Salt Lake City, Utah’s rule applies only to medical cannabis. Recreational consumption is still illegal in the state.
Thanks to Utah’s rule, public sector employees must treat medical cannabis like any other prescription medication. As long as medical cannabis consumption does not hinder an employee’s ability to do his job safely and up to standard, employers must treat it as a nonissue. Yet there are exceptions in both Utah and Michigan.
Some Testing Is Still in Force
State laws attempting to level the playing field between public and private sector employers must still be crafted to account for federal laws. As a case in point, federal law prohibits marijuana users from owning or possessing firearms. This automatically dictates that police officers cannot consume marijuana either medically or recreationally.
Both Michigan and Utah law recognize that applicants to state and local police agencies still must test for marijuana. Applicants testing positive are disqualified. Officers currently on the force must also undergo random testing. A positive test can result in termination.
Michigan’s rule also keeps testing in force for healthcare workers, Department of Corrections employees, and any jobs involving hazardous materials, heavy machinery, or driving. The state obviously does not want to accept the liability that goes along with marijuana consumption among employees with more dangerous jobs.
Private-Sector Screenings Unaffected
Michigan and Utah both practice at-will employment, meaning that employers can terminate employees for virtually any reason. The at-will concept also dictates that private employers can set their own policies for drug use and testing. What does this mean in a practical sense? It means that private-sector screenings are unaffected by Michigan’s new rule.
Private-sector employers can still test for marijuana. They can still terminate for a positive test. Public sector employment is different. Testing will be a thing of the past for most state jobs come October 2023. That is welcome news to both state agencies in need of help and job candidates capable of filling open positions.