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Minnesota Chamber of Commerce speakers express concerns about marijuana bill

(The Center Square) – Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Business series March 1 addressed what employers need to know regarding how legalizing recreational marijuana could affect the workplace.

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation Chief Medical Officer Dr. Alta DeRoo, SFM Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Kathy Bray, and Faegre Drinker Partner Nicole Truso participated in a panel at the event, which took place at Rush Creek Golf Club in Maple Grove.

The 262-page bill, HF 100, establishes labor standards for the use of cannabis by employees and testing of employees.

Truso said that the bill restricts the ability of employers to take action on use in the workplace in an unprecedented way.

She said employers have liked to rely on drug testing because it’s objective, and under certain iterations of the bill, they wouldn’t be able to take action based on those test results. Effectively, frontline managers would then need to subjectively judge whether the people they supervise can safely perform their jobs, and teams will need education on workplace procedures regarding marijuana impairment, Truso said.

Unlike alcohol, marijuana doesn’t have common standards for impairment levels, she said. She said she anticipates there will be legal challenges regarding whether someone was impaired at work. Employers should encourage frontline managers to have the confidence to make decisions based on conduct and safety standards, not testing, Truso said.

Since federal law still considers marijuana illicit, whether federal contractor employees can legally use recreational marijuana may depend on the work they’re doing that day, Truso said.

Bray said robust, enforced safety programs will be the best defense for workers’ compensation. They should encourage employees and managers to look out for each other, she said. Employers would need to prove that marijuana is the direct cause of an accident to avoid paying workers’ compensation, she said.

DeRoo said the nonprofit addiction treatment provider doesn’t prescribe it to inpatients and tries to steer outpatients away from using marijuana. She said staff tell outpatients that marijuana can compromise their long-term recovery, as it makes them more vulnerable to abusing other substances, like opioids and alcohol. She said that in states where recreational marijuana is legal, people’s perception of risk of marijuana has decreased, especially among teenagers.

Long-term use of marijuana can impact the frontal lobe of the brain, which impacts decision-making and processing, DeRoo said. For example, they might lose math skills. She said that in the acute period marijuana use can impact hand-eye coordination and speech.

The bill also establishes a CanStartup grant program for nonprofits that fund loans to new legal cannabis businesses and support job creation in communities where long-term residents are eligible to be social equity applicants and automatically expunges certain cannabis offenses, among other provisions.


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