In 2017 Nevada joined a number of other states in decriminalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Although a marijuana user doesn’t face criminal prosecution under state law, other restrictions remain in place, from federal prohibition to state and local ordinances limiting when, where, and how it can be used. Employers also remain free to enforce drug policies. Decriminalization has not changed the tight restrictions against drug use for members of the state’s first responder community.
Workplace restrictions against marijuana use remain unchanged
The statute governing legalization of recreational marijuana use in Nevada, NRS Chapter 453D, makes clear that the sole object of the law is to remove most criminal penalties for using or possessing the drug. The law expressly leaves in place penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana, providing it to people who are under the age of 21, or possessing it on school grounds. Chapter 453D also permits public and private employers to prohibit or restrict marijuana use by their employees. NRS 453D.100(2)(a).
A first responder should assume that his or her employer’s policies regarding marijuana use remain in effect. And one should not assume that the legalization of recreational use loosens drug testing standards. Just as before the law was passed, a first responder should take care to avoid being exposed to second-hand smoke, which likely will become a greater challenge for some first responders.
Recreational marijuana use can affect a first responder’s career in several ways
A first responder who is not routinely tested for marijuana use should not think that taking advantage of the state’s relaxed laws is a good idea. The most obvious issue is that an employer will have cause to terminate an employee who violates its drug policy, which could jeopardize not only a career but also earned pension and other benefits.
There are several other ways that recreational use could affect one’s career. Perhaps the most important issue is federal prohibition. Even though state law no longer criminalizes marijuana use, it remains a Schedule I narcotic for federal purposes. Federal criminal charges are still possible and would carry the same consequences as any other criminal offense, regardless of state law.
Another potential problem is the risk marijuana use poses to workers’ compensation coverage for work-related injuries. A workers’ comp insurance claim could be denied if the insurer has reason to believe that the employee’s injury occurred while under the influence of a controlled substance. NRS 616C.230(1)(d). Marijuana’s active ingredient can remain in the bloodstream for a long time after initial use, creating a risk that it could be present even if the injured employee is sober at the time of the accident. It’s best to not give an insurer a justification for denying a claim.
GGRM is here to answer first responders’ questions
The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez proudly serves clients in the Las Vegas first responder community. If you have questions about how the legalization of recreational marijuana affects you or your career, reach out to us today for a free, confidential attorney consultation. Call us at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.