FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — New Yorkers aged 21 and older can now possess up to three ounces of marijuana at home or in public. The new law has triggered immediate workplace concerns for both employers and employees.
On Wednesday, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan spoke to an expert about the ramifications of legalized marijuana.
The Long Island Main Street Alliance reached out to more than 70 businesses and employers told CBS2 as they struggle to get out of the coronavirus pandemic they are overwhelmed by the new realities of pot.
“This is another challenge that they have to face they didn’t quite expect, as local businesses were not involved in shaping of the legislation,” said the Main Street Alliance’s Eric Alexander said.
“If an employee comes in smelling like marijuana, we are limited to what we can do,” added Daniel Romano of Frankie’s Gourmet Pizza.
“Smell would not be a symptom of impairment,” attorney Avrohom Gefen of Vishnick McGovern Milizio LLP. “Tricky situation for an employer to actually show that the employee was under the influence while they were working.”
Gefen said it’s a slippery slope as New York becomes the 15th state to legalize recreational marijuana, immediately allowing residents to possess small amounts. Legal sales are more than a year away. Ralph Ekstrand is a local pharmacy owner, as well as Farmingdale’s mayor.
“Can we zone them out of our downtown and into our industrial area? Is that also legal?” Ekstrand said.
“Limit the sales, limit the places in which it’s allowed to be smoked,” Gefen said.
You cannot legally smoke weed in a restaurant outdoor patio and unlike cigarettes, you cannot smoke pot inside a car.
Experts say the law on recreational marijuana is ahead of its time when it comes to technology and testing. Currently, companies are developing machines that may soon become a part of the workplace.
In some states, businesses are buying cannabis insurance to protect against marijuana-induced workplace and roadway accidents.
Gefen said these next months should be about advice and training.
“Advising employees who may think that this is open season and they can come to work impaired,” Gefen said. “And also training supervisors to recognize what the signs of impairment are.”
Documentation will be key to both employers and employees avoiding lawsuits.