The New York State legislature and Governor Cuomo passed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act under Senate Bill S854A on March 31, 2021 to legalize recreational use of marijuana, amongst a laundry list of regulations. The new law establishes a new Office of Cannabis Management and provides for related social and economic justice initiatives.

According to the language in the Bill found here: NY State Senate Bill S854A (nysenate.gov), this new legislation amends various sections of New York State law as it relates to the Cannabis Law including to:

• remove marijuana from the schedule of controlled substances.
• provide for the lawful possession, use, and personal growth of cannabis.
• expand sealing and expungement opportunities for past marijuana convictions.
• establish parameters related to cannabis and probation, parole, and Family Court matters.
• provide for the taxation of cannabis.
• provide for the distribution of tax revenues, including:
o 40% to the community grants reinvestment fund.
o 40% to education to add to the State’s current investment in education.
o 20% for mental health services; youth cannabis use prevention; public health campaigns; and drug treatment, prevention, and harm reduction services; and certain administrative costs to implement this act.
• provide for vehicle and traffic, and other public safety measures.
• clarify workplace standards and employee/employer rights and protections related to cannabis.
• research potential technologies to assist in detecting motorist cannabis impairment; and
• transfer certain functions and employees from various state agencies to the Office of Cannabis Management.

What Does Legalizing Marijuana Mean for Employers and Employees?

The new legislation includes protections for employees who choose to use marijuana outside the workplace. Employers may choose to drop cannabis from pre-employment drug testing; however, marijuana remains illegal under federal law, so preparing workplace policies concerning the use of marijuana in New York can be complicated. For example, the new legislation treats marijuana use to the use of alcohol, so employers may want to amend their current employee handbook policies relating to violations of work safety rules or impairment to incorporate marijuana use. Such policies should be carefully drafted to ensure that the language does not impede on an employee’s rights pursuant to the new legislation.

This article is intended for general information and educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice or counsel. The substance of this article is not intended to cover all legal issues or developments regarding the matter. Please consult with an attorney to ascertain how these new developments may relate to you or your business. © 2021 Regina Sarkis, Esq.