Can Maryland Employers Test and Discipline for Recreational Marijuana Use?


As most Maryland employers know, recreational marijuana was legalized as of July 1, 2023. The law does not contain any workplace provisions, and employers (and employees!) wondered what their rights were with regard to testing and disciplining employees for marijuana use. Well, according to recently-released guidance from the newly-created Maryland Cannabis Commission, employers have retained those rights.

What the Maryland Cannabis Commission Says. On its website, the Commission has Adult-Use Cannabis FAQs that include the following question and answer:

Can I use cannabis at work?

The Cannabis Reform Act does not address cannabis use or impairment in the workplace. Individuals remain subject to any existing laws and workplace policies on substance or cannabis use (e.g., federal laws prohibiting the operation of commercial transport vehicles while impaired, or workplace policies prohibiting cannabis use specifically and/or impairment generally). The legislation does not address the use of employer drug screening of employees or prospective employees. Your employer or prospective employer can provide more specific information about its policies regarding substance use in the workplace.

Accordingly, for the time being, it appears that employers may continue to prohibit marijuana use by employees – not only in the workplace, but off-duty as well. However, we anticipate that there will be attempts to pass legislation that provides workplace protections for recreational users in the coming Maryland General Assembly sessions, so employers should stay tuned for developments in this area.

But Testing Is Not the Only Option. Employers should be aware of issues with testing for marijuana use, however. The traditional drug tests only establish whether someone has used marijuana within the past several weeks or even months. There are some newer tests able to identify recent use, meaning within the past 4-8 hours or so – although such use could still occur prior to an employee reporting to work. Unlike alcohol testing, however, these drug tests do not measure current intoxication. Thus, even if an employer had a policy that permitted off-duty use but prohibited on-duty use, it would not be possible to establish through testing whether the employee was currently high on marijuana in violation of such a policy. As a result, employers may wish to include provisions in their drug testing policies that specifically state that they may take action based on observed symptoms of marijuana intoxication, in addition to or in lieu of positive drug test results.