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NJ finally offers a guide to dealing with marijuana in the workplace

TRENTON — State marijuana regulators have finally issued guidance, though not yet formal regulations, on how companies can try to ensure their employees aren’t high while at work.

The sale of cannabis in state-regulated dispensaries became legal in April, but rules to deal with the impact of this change on the workplace have been delayed despite constant unrest from business groups.

The guidelines published on Friday are only a first step. Formal rules on the standards for certification of workplace impairment assessors, or WIREs, need to be passed, but there’s no word yet on when those might come.

Jeff Brown, executive director of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, said the guidelines do not create or limit any legal rights.

“We are making it very clear that the country’s new law provides that employers can take adverse action against an employee solely based on the presence of cannabis metabolites in their blood, unless they meet a specific federal contract exemption,” Brown said .

“But they can develop a reasonable suspicion by using evidence and objective means to determine that someone is reasonably suspected of being impaired at work,” he said. “And you can use that with a drug test and other evidence-based tools like a cognitive impairment test to support this case.”

Employers can appoint staff responsible for assisting in determining if someone is impaired, the guidance says. You should have an education.

The state also provides a mechanism for documenting evidence or evidence of impairment to support the use of a drug test to confirm reasonable suspicion. Cognitive impairment tests can also be used to provide evidence. The country’s model form or an alternative can be used.

Brown said the guidance provides clarity on what employers can do while long-term rules are being developed.

“Certainly we’ve learned to live with legal alcohol for quite some time, and employers deal with people who use other substances in the workplace,” he said. “This is an evidence and objective-based way to do this as we develop these permanent regulations.”

Ray Cantor, deputy chief government affairs officer for the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, welcomed the guidance.

“We are pleased that the CRC has issued guidance that provides a way forward for employers to maintain a drug-free workplace,” Cantor said. “And that includes an alternative way of dealing with reasonable suspicions without using WIREs.

“We are also pleased that the guidance published today by the CRC has taken into account a number of our suggestions and we look forward to working with the Commission on its formal WIRE regulations while also informing our members of their options regarding the enforcement of the.” Informing about safety in the workplace,” he said.

CRC Commissioner Krista Nash said a change in perspective on the threat of marijuana was needed.

“What I find ironic is that in safety-sensitive professions like construction, there’s increased awareness that we’re putting out these WIRES guidelines,” Nash said. “But people don’t die from marijuana. They die from much harder drugs that they go to work every day and take and are prescribed.”

“Ironically, people injured in construction would benefit from being prescribed or given marijuana instead of addictive painkillers and opioids,” she said. “Just one takeaway: we really need to focus on the stigma around cannabis and hopefully one day eradicate it.”

Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

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