The state Department of Labor is in the middle of creating guidelines for employers and employees on the state’s new recreational marijuana laws, meaning it will likely be a bit of time before businesses know what the impact of the law will be.
“It’s just not clear right now,” said Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce.
Stewart’s, which operates 340 convenience stores in Upstate New York and Vermont and a dairy/ ice cream plant, distribution center and offices in Saratoga Springs, released its 2021 employee handbook, which states that it pre-screened employees for drugs. However, whether that will continue is unclear.
“Unfortunately, because of all of the unknowns at this time, we are unable to answer these questions at this time,” said Erica Komoroske, the director of public affairs for the company.
Schenectady County, which has approximately 1,350 full and part-time employees, is in the same boat as Stewart’s.
“Schenectady County continues to review the law and how it may affect specific positions within the county,” said county spokesperson Erin Roberts.
Other companies, like the Golub Corporation, have stopped drug testing employees both pre-employment and post-accident, said Mona Golub, the vice president of public relations and customer services.
She said they can still conduct a reasonable suspicion test, such as they do with alcohol, if the company believes an employee is under the influence.
“We can also prohibit possession of marijuana on company property and intend to do so, going forward,” Golub said.
She said if someone is injured while under the influence of marijuana the company would need to prove they were high on marijuana at the time. But the best way to test for the substance is still up for debate.
“Our biggest concerns are the lack of a [determinative] testing process capable of confirming if someone is under the influence while at work and the recognition that our supervisors will now need to be trained to recognize the behaviors associated with being under the influence of marijuana,” Golub said.
The American Addiction Center said THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, can be detectable for different periods of time dependent on how the sample is taken. In hair it’s detectable for 90 days, urine for three days to a month depending on how often someone uses, and it can remain in saliva for up to 48 hours and blood up to 36 hours.
Some companies, like General Electric and the Capital District Transportation Authority, know exactly what they’re going to do.
“The new state law will not impact our existing policies that prohibit using or being under the influence of marijuana in the workplace,” said a GE spokesperson. “As a U.S. federal contractor, we do and will continue to comply with all of the applicable governmental requirements, including conducting appropriate drug testing and ensuring a drug free workplace.”
The CDTA has the same stance as GE.
“We follow federal testing guidelines with drug and alcohol for employees who are in safety sensitive positions [including bus operators],” said Jaime Watson, the director of corporate communications. “The new recreational marijuana law does not impact the safety and security measures we follow put forth by the Department of Transportation.”
She said supervisors, operators, anyone in safety sensitive positions or people who interact with employees on a regular basis go through drug and alcohol training.
“If there is any reasonable suspicion, we then follow our reasonable suspicion policy,” Watson said. “If one of those employees receives a positive test, they are immediately terminated.”
The company employs 720 people, of which 450 are bus operators.
Other concerns around the new recreational marijuana laws include its impact on the state Scaffold Law, which holds companies or contractors solely responsible if someone is hurt on a construction site.
“We have concerns regarding worker safety and the implications [they] have on employer liability under Scaffold Law,” said Thomas O’Connor, the vice president of government relations for the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce.
He said the chamber will continue to work to end the law or change it. New York is the only state with such a law, he said.