Governor Phil Murphy recently signed into law three bills regarding cannabis legalization in New Jersey. These new laws legalize adult-use cannabis for individuals over the age of 21, decriminalize possession of up to six ounces of marijuana, and clarify the penalties of use and possession for people younger than 21.
According to a statement released by the governor’s office and printed by the New York Times, this change will bring some equity to communities disproportionately impacted by archaic cannabis laws. Governor Murphy stated, “Our current marijuana prohibition laws have failed every test of social justice. Maintaining a status quo that allows tens of thousands, disproportionately people of color, to be arrested in New Jersey each year for low-level drug offenses is unjust and indefensible.”
This legislation triggers immediate justice for individuals who have been arrested for petty cannabis possession and paves the way for the state to reinvest dollars into communities facing the greatest disadvantage from marijuana prohibition.
A new frontier for New Jersey HR administration
Though legal sales of marijuana are still months away, the state’s cannabis marketplace will soon begin to pick up steam, launching new local businesses in the nascent “green economy.” Businesses involved in marijuana cultivation, processing, and distribution will face close regulatory scrutiny and will be required to develop correct policies from the outset to ensure compliance with cannabis-related human resources laws and regulations.
Marijuana businesses will need to establish compliant policies and practices for employee classification, onboarding, and payroll and tax reporting, as well as obtaining appropriate worker’s compensation coverage and addressing related risk & compliance factors.
Like in any other competitive industry, attracting and retaining top talent will require New Jersey cannabis employers to offer competitive compensation, stand-out employee benefits packages, and strategic recruiting efforts.
Organizations in non-cannabis-related industries will also feel the impact of this change and will likely need to revisit existing policies to comply with new human resources laws and regulations.
Impacts to HR will likely include:
- Revisions to pre-employment and random drug testing policies
- Company handbook revisions
- Company drug policy updates
- Training and recruiting changes
- Workplace safety guidelines
- Impacts on insurance
Partner with experts for guidance
As of right now, cannabis is legal for recreational use in 14 states and the District of Columbia, medical use of cannabis (with a doctor’s recommendation) is legal in 35 states, and another 16 states have decriminalized its use.
Precedents set by other states offer some guidance, but New Jersey will set forth its own strict human resources laws and regulations outlining how employers may address cannabis use among their workforces.
Changes like these reinforce the importance of working with experienced HR professionals to navigate rapidly changing federal and state requirements. The in-house HR departments at many businesses lack the resources and experience to adjust current company procedures or draft new policies to ensure compliance and protect against risk exposure.
Working with an experienced outsourced HR partner like Extensis enables companies to take a careful, proactive approach to cannabis-related change.
When was the last time you updated your company’s HR policies? Contact our experts to make sure your policies are clear and compliant.