On election day, Nevada residents voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use, making it legal for anyone over the age of 21 to have in their possession up to an ounce of marijuana or one-eighth of an ounce of a marijuana concentrate. Many in Nevada are wondering exactly what changes are to come due to the new laws. Is it okay to smoke marijuana at work or before work? Will tourism turn its focus to so-called “marijuana tourism”? Will there be more drugged drivers to contend with? Will more kids end up in the ER due to marijuana poisoning?
What changes do you see on the horizon?
Smoking Weed Will Get You Fired
Even though marijuana is legal, you can still get fired from your job for (1) showing up to work while under the influence, (2) smoking marijuana at work (on a break or otherwise), and (3) failing a drug test for marijuana.
Much of your circumstance at work regarding marijuana will depend on the paperwork you signed when you were hired. Some companies require regular drug testing and need to know that you will not be impaired while on the job. Specifically, if you work with heavy machinery or drive for a living, it is important that you are not using marijuana as it not only puts you in danger but also others on the road and opens up the company to litigation and loss.
Kelly Kirwan works at an ARCpoint Labs in Denver, Colorado. Kirwan says that because the active ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is fat-soluble (or absorbed by fat cells), it will show up on a drug test for up to two months. She reports that positive drug tests have doubled since marijuana was legalized for recreational use in Colorado, but that employers, rather than being tolerant of the issue, have tended to develop a “zero tolerance policy.”
Said Kirwan: “A lot of employees mistakenly thought they could smoke now, because all of a sudden it was legal. But then they’d fail their drug test and be fired, because it’s still an illicit drug and against companies’ policies.”
Even medical use of the drug by an employee is not protected by law. Though the current legislation recommends that use be accommodated, if the employer determines otherwise, a dirty drug test will still lead to firing, no matter what the purpose for use.
Las Vegas Tourism Will Likely Remain Unchanged
Las Vegas tourism is currently driven by marketing for casinos and shows, and there is no indication that that will change. Because it is still illegal federally, use of marijuana may not be touted as a reason to visit the state. In other states where the drug has been legalized recreationally, the tourist industries have been patiently watching and waiting to determine whether or not there are people coming to the state specifically for recreational marijuana access.
Don Newman, the executive director at the Elko Convention and Visitors Authority, says: “I don’t think we at this point would want to reach out and promote. I think we would rather evaluate where things go. I think there’s that conflict of federal versus state. I don’t think it’s something that we would promote initially.”
Rates of Drugged Driving May Increase
Like prescription painkillers, prescription sedatives, and alcohol – all legal – marijuana can impair driving ability. A slowed reaction time and a decreased ability to process changes on the road can increase the chance of accidents that can be fatal to the driver, passengers, and others on the road, including pedestrians. It is safe to say that legalization of marijuana will likely increase use of the drug among people who may not have otherwise tried the drug as well as among those who use it regularly. Since it is only possible to measure marijuana metabolites in the blood and not intoxication levels, it is difficult to regulate, making it a significant issue.
More Kids May End up in the ER
Trips to the emergency room for kids who inadvertently ingested marijuana increased in Colorado after the legalization of recreational marijuana. In about half of the cases, kids ate marijuana-laced brownies, candies, and other edibles that looked like their non-THC=laced counterparts. It is difficult for children to know the difference, and parents and caregivers as well as owners of the products who are visiting kids or have kids over may not realize the danger. There is no reason to believe that the same thing will not happen in Nevada.