Recreational Marijuana Questions Burn in Minds of PA Lawmakers

The question on whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use has been debated at the national level for the past several years now, and Pennsylvania is no exception. It’s an especially hot topic leading up to the 2022 elections, a chief talking point of some candidates and has been the subject of a series of committee hearings at the state Capitol.

Pennsylvania enacted some form of marijuana legalization as recently as five years ago. Medical marijuana was approved through Act 16 of 2016 and since that time, the list of medical conditions to qualify has expanded and its use has widely proliferated. But despite this step, proponents began pushing for recreational use of marijuana before the ink was even dry on Act 16.  Meanwhile, marijuana has increasingly become a factor in the workplace. While the law protects patients from discrimination, it unfortunately doesn’t offer protections to employers – and employers have reported significant confusion regarding their rights as it pertains to implementing workplace safety standards under the law.

The PA Chamber hasn’t taken a position on this issue. However, our organization does have concerns about expanding the use of marijuana because employers have expressed confusion about the law that’s currently on the books. They have questions that deserve clear answers. One question, for example: Are they allowed to drug test applicants for jobs in safety-sensitive industries, require those applicants to disclose their marijuana use, or simply take them off the job if they are impaired? The law isn’t clear and for many, the lack of clarity is complicating their ability to maintain a safe work environment, particularly when it comes to safety-sensitive industries.

Legislation that would help address these ambiguities is moving through the General Assembly right now. Senate Bill 749 has earned the support of a wide range of industries – including the PA Chamber – and currently awaits action by the full Senate.

In the meantime, a full-fledged legalization of marijuana effort doesn’t appear to be making it to the governor’s desk via a Republican-controlled legislature that has expressed little appetite for bringing a bill to the floor for a vote. While the debate continues to unfold, the PA Chamber remains a steadfast voice for the employer community, bringing your concerns to the forefront and the potential impact that such a measure could bring to workers and the workplace while advocating for greater clarity on Act 16.  Please feel free to reach out to a dedicated member of the PA Chamber team if you have questions on these, or any other issues.