Recreational pot and the workplace: Q&A on Oregon's new marijuana law –

July 1 is nearly upon us, the day Oregon’s voter-approved recreational marijuana law starts taking effect.
If you’re an employee, you may be wondering where your rights to smoke begin and end. Can you puff on the weekend and go to work Monday thinking you’re on solid ground?
If you’re an employer, you may be revisiting your right to test workers for the presence of marijuana. Have the legal requirements changed? Is there reason to be more or less lenient than before?
We asked two Portland attorneys with expertise in employment law to answer those and other questions about legal pot and the workplace.
Here are highlights from our conversations with Matthew C. Ellis, a solo practitioner who represents workers, and Karen O’Connor, a partner with Stoel Rives who represents employers. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Both lawyers will participate in a live chat with readers at 7 p.m. Wednesday. We invite you to join the conversation. Come back to Wednesday morning for more details.
Q. With respect to the use of recreational marijuana and the workplace, what if anything changes on July 1 for employers and workers?
Ellis: Nothing changes on July 1 with regard to employee rights or even employer rights with regard to use of marijuana – other than there will be a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about what rights people do and do not have.
O’Connor: I don’t think very much changes. The fact that someone can now legally use marijuana recreationally doesn’t mean you can use it at work. It’s not going to change anything about people’s rights or privileges at work because, for most employees, they can’t be under the influence of any substance while performing their job duties.
Q. What’s the most common question you get from clients on this topic?
Ellis: “I’m disabled, I have a medical marijuana card and I’m consuming off-hours. Can the employer test me and fire me for off-hours use?” They absolutely can, even if you’re using it to treat a disabling condition.
Q. Is it fair to say employers have all the power in this situation?
O’Connor: Yes, the employer has all the power. They can say I don’t want employees to smoke marijuana. But the employer needs to look at whether they want to get into what their employees do off duty or not. Most employers don’t want to go there. They only …Read More