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Clarifying Employee Policy vs. Legal Marijuana in Washington

Posted by Steve Karimi | Dec 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

Washington is a pioneer in the US legal marijuana journey. When the bill to legalize marijuana was approved, new questions surfaced that are still being answered. One of the big rocks in the path has been and continues to be this question: if pot is legal, can employers still require passing drug tests and marijuana abstinence as part of employment? To understand this question, one must understand the difference between illegal activity and an activity prohibited according to employer drug policy. Private employers have rights to limit activities just as Washington citizens now are legally permitted to use marijuana.

Employer Policies and Marijuana

Drug testing is one tool employers use to maintain a strong workforce and to limit illegal activity on the job as part of the employer drug policy. As with most states, Washington employers can test for drugs—legal and illegal. Employment law governs the nature of the allowable tests and what can and can't be tested. Also, privacy laws limit employer access to medical information.

At the core of the employer issue with drug testing lies the fact that "legal" is not the same as "allowable" when referenced in a work environment. Employers are not compelled to permit marijuana use or possession at work simply because it is a legal activity in Washington. Many activities are legal yet are universally understood not to be permitted at work or during the workday. For example, drinking alcohol is a legal activity for adults yet few, if any, employers allow employees to imbibe at work.

Federal Marijuana Laws and Drug Tests

Some employers are governed by another layer of laws involving drug tests. Private employers that receive federal funds or federal employers are often compelled to conduct testing for drugs because of federal law. While marijuana has been made legal under state law, it remains prohibited under federal law.

Drug tests are complicated when marijuana is involved because it remains in the user's blood system for up to a month. If an employer tests for drug use and a positive test results, a murky area exists where the employer can terminate the person for violating drug policy when the user may not have consumed marijuana at any time when he or she was at work. The employer's policy and how specific it is or is not will be a factor.

Your Marijuana Challenge and Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are being terminated, disciplined, or prosecuted for an employment-related situation involving marijuana, you have rights. To learn more about how to solve your problem, you can get answers by speaking with experienced criminal defense attorney Steve Karimi. As a former prosecutor, Steve learned the Washington court system inside and out. He can help you determine your best course of action in preserving your reputation and knowing your rights. Contact him online or call today at 206-660-6200 to get some clarity on your resolution.

About the Author

Steve Karimi

Steve Karimi attended Pepperdine University School of Law. After graduation he worked as a prosecutor in Seattle where he gained valuable insight to the criminal justice system. Attorney Karimi uses his experiences as a prosecutor everyday only now he fights for the justice of those accused.


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If you were arrested or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Seattle or surrounding areas of Washington State, the Law Offices of Steve Karimi can help. Call 206-660-6200 24 hours a day for a free consultation.

Seattle Defense Lawyer

Named a "rising star" in criminal defense by Washington Law and Politics magazine, Mr. Karimi is a former prosecutor for King County who uses his insight into prosecution strategies to protect his clients' rights in criminal court.