An Attempt At Journalism With Regards To Corporate Marijuana Policy In Colorado Post-Amendment 64
I had been wondering about what impact the Marijuana Law has had in Colorado when it comes to corporations. Now, I know that, legally, Colorado has said that they’re going to stop arresting people for weed… but what does that mean for local businesses when it comes to employment screening? What does that mean for businesses large enough to be in more than one state?
I put together a list of questions so I wouldn’t sound like an idiot (or less of one, anyway):
Did you have a drug policy prior to January 2014? Actually, I’m sure you did. Did it require pre-hire drug-testing? If someone tested positive for marijuana, was that reason to not hire them?
Does your company make exceptions for medicinal marijuana? Like, if an employee gets a MMJ card, is that sufficient reason to terminate their employment?
And, finally, post-January 2014, have any of your policies changed with regards to employees in Colorado and Washington? Do you have one policy for the whole company? (If you have one policy for the whole company, what is it?)
So then I called a number of companies in Colorado Springs, intending to talk to the biggest employers in the city (though I talked to a couple of minor ones too). These companies included both Defense Contractor kinda companies (we’ll get to them first) as well as companies related to the computer, telephone, investment, and insurance industries. (I’m not naming any companies because I don’t want the handful of awesome people I actually spoke with to get into trouble and not naming the companies is the best way that I figure that I can protect them.)
First off, I think that I should tell you that I didn’t know what I expected when I started to write this. I suppose I expected more than what I got… in any case, out of the four Defense contractors, I wasn’t able to talk to a human being at three of them but the fourth worked. I talked to someone who transferred me to someone who was happy to tell me that they operate according to Federal Law and not State Law.
Oh, and a Medicinal Marijuana card was sufficient grounds for termination. Period. Oh, and he volunteered the imformation that I had talked to someone at the other three, they’d tell me the exact same thing. I was tersely told to have a good day.
Fair enough, that’s more or less what I expected there… but what about the private companies on the list? Well…
First off, I figured I’d call a company that I know has made me pee in a cup in the past. The first number I looked up had me speak to a person who told me to go to the website but they took pity on me and they gave me another number to call. (The website wasn’t particularly helpful for this question.) I called the other number and they told me that they couldn’t answer my question and wouldn’t transfer me to HR without a name but I could go to the website and fill out a form with the question and someone would get back to me in a couple of business days. I declined.
I called the next company and spoke to a person there who was much nicer. This person told me that their focus for any given employee was: Are they licensed to do the job they’d be hired for? Do they have industry experience? There wasn’t a drug test given… but, I was told, back before the law changed, they weren’t giving people drug tests then either.
So then I called the next company’s 800 number and, sigh, got a Phone Tree. After a few minutes, I talked to a real human being in HR who, when I told them who I was and then asked my questions, sent me to Media Relations. I was asked to send an email (and a link to the blog) and so I sent an email with my questions and a cheerful description of all of us happy people here and… well. I’m still waiting on a response.
The next place I called was the one that gave me the most hope. The person who answered the phone told me that the policy was: don’t smoke it before work, don’t smoke it at work. I said “So it’s like your policy toward beer?” and they said “sure… but, wait. I could be wrong.” Unfortunately, everyone else was in a meeting. It was pointed out to me that, well, this was a national company and it was quite likely that different states had different policies so I asked about Medicinal. If Bob from accounting gets a card, is that reason to terminate and I was told “Nope, that would actually be a lawsuit. You can’t terminate someone for their medication.” But, again, I was told that the final authority was the person in HR who was never at their desk. I was transferred to voice mail a couple of times but I declined to leave a message.
The next company told me that unless I knew the name of the person I wanted to call, they couldn’t transfer me to Human Resources. Please go to the webpage.
The webpage was unhelpful.
At that point I called a company and found myself on THE PHONE TREE FROM HELL. It took me until my third try to get connected to a human. I finally had to pretend to be a customer, got directed to billing, said that I was trying to reach someone in HR or Media Relations. At this point, I was scolded. Then I was sent to a voice mail. I declined to leave a message.
At this point, I said “okay, just one more and then I’ll give up”. I made the last call and got someone helpful, kinda. I was told “I can’t talk to you, but this guy can” and the guy talked to me and told me that he didn’t know whether he could answer any of my questions but we had a bit of an interesting discussion in which he told me to read this link. (If you don’t feel like clicking on through, it’s a legal blog talking about a court case that determined that employers in Colorado could, in fact, fire someone for testing positive for THC even if they had a MMJ card in accordance with Colorado Law.)
He told me that Colorado has an interesting law that says something to the effect of “you can’t be fired (or denied a job) for doing something that was legal.” (Aside, I spoke to our very own Burt Likko about this. He told me that “(Colorado Revised Statute) 24-34-402.5 is way different than California law, that’s for sure! Way more protection for an employee. It looks like the off-work activity must be (1) legal (so sparking up is not protected, because marijuana use still violates federal law), (2) taking place off-site, (3) occurring during non-working hours, which I presume means at a time the employee is not expected to be on duty, (4) unrelated to a genuine, good-faith relationship between the specific employee and the employer, (5) not one that causes a conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest.” Thank you, Burt!) So then we talked about what that actually means in practice and the guy said that everybody was standing still, waiting to see what everyone else did, waiting to see what the inevitable court cases would say before anybody did anything. At the end of our discussion he said he’d like to look at the blog and then he’d talk to his people. I sent him an email with a link to the blog and he wrote me back about 10 minutes later telling me, and I’m quoting here, “Unfortunately, I am unable to speak to you about our policies regarding drug testing or marijuana. Best of luck with your article.”
And so, now, you know what I know what has changed in Colorado with regards to the corporate response to marijuana legislation: it’s exceptionally difficult to talk to anybody and, even if you could, no one wants to be on the record.