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IFDAT Global Insider Spring 2015

International Solutions International Solutions

Marijuana: Legal, Available and Dangerous By: Bill Current

Marijuana is, by far, the most com-

monly used illicit drug in the world. Ac- cording to the World Drug Report, in 2013 there were 180.6 million marijuana users worldwide. In the United States there are nearly 20 million Americans who admit to being “regular” users of the drug and in Europe 73.6 million admit that they’ve tried marijuana in their lifetime. T e aggressive movement in the Unit-

ed States to legalize pot has not only re- sulted in a dramatic increase in the num- ber of people using marijuana and testing positive in workplace drug tests, but it has created confusion and concern among em- ployers. What can employers do to address the problem, especially U.S.-based compa- nies that must contend with legalized mar- ijuana in the United States? Can they still drug test for marijuana? And what hap- pens when an employee tests positive for THC and claims that they used the drug legally? Companies still have an obligation to

ensure their workplaces are safe, secure and profi table, yet employees under the infl uence of pot are less safe and less pro- ductive than their non-using co-workers, which places people at risk and exposes employers to potentially expensive legal li- ability.

Where Is Marijuana Legal? For employers to know how to address

the marijuana dilemma they must fi rst know what applicable laws say about the legal status of the drug. T e United States is not the only country where the legal- ization of marijuana poses a problem for employers interested in maintaining drug testing programs. Here are some examples

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as of January 2015: Marijuana is legal in some parts of

Australia. For example, the drug has been decriminalized for personal use in small amounts in the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia, and the Northern Terri- tory. It remains a criminal off ence in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Aus- tralia, Victoria and Tasmania. Enforcement varies from state to state, though a criminal conviction for possession of a small amount is unlikely and diversion programs in these states aim to direct off enders into education and treatment programs rather than prison. In Germany, possession of marijuana

is illegal, but consumption is legal based on the premise that use is self-harmful, which is not considered a crime. T ough possession of small amounts of pot is against the law, charges are usually not carried out. What is a “small amount”? In most parts of Germany up to 6 grams is allowed, though in the state of Berlin up to 15 grams for personal use is permitted. In India, marijuana is still, technically, il-

legal though the law is said not to be closely enforced, especially when a person is in pos- session of smaller quantities. Marijuana is le- gal in several states such as West Bengal, Bi- har, Orissa Tripura, and the North East due to Hindu customs. It is also used by some in observance of certain Hindu rituals. In 2009, Mexico decriminalized “per-

sonal use” possession of up to fi ve grams of Cannabis. However, growing and selling the drug remains illegal. In 2001, Portugal became the fi rst coun-

try in the world to decriminalize the use of all drugs. In Spain, it is legal to grow Can- nabis on private property for personal use. And private “cannabis clubs” exist all over the country causing some to refer to Spain as

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the “new Amsterdam.” (Source for the legal status of marijuana in- ternationally: Legality_of_cannabis_by_country)

The United States T e movement to legalize marijuana

in the United States continues to spread across the country. T ere are 23 states plus the District of Columbia that have legalized marijuana for medicinal use. Additionally, there are other states, in- cluding most recently Georgia, that have legalized non-smoking forms of marijua- na, such as THC oils, for medicinal pur- poses. Four states—Alaska, Colorado, Or-

egon and Washington—plus the District of Columbia (D.C.) have made marijuana legal for so-called recreational use. With the exception of D.C., these states have essentially established a legal market- place for the selling and buying of mari- juana. Each of these jurisdictions already had medical marijuana laws on the books before legalizing pot for recreational use.

In 2015, more states are expected to

legalize marijuana for medicinal and rec- reational use.

Marijuana Today T ere are two primary arguments that

drive the legalization movement in the United States: 1) marijuana is no diff er- ent than alcohol, which is legal, therefore marijuana should be legal also; and 2) marijuana helps those with debilitating and painful illnesses and diseases fi nd re- lief from their mental and physical suff er-

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