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Medical marijuana at work?

Janet UrquhartAspen CorrespondentPost IndependentGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

A hazy understanding of Colorado medical marijuana laws, and what is and isn’t allowed in the workplace, may become clearer next week for Aspen employers. The Aspen Chamber Resort Association and workers compensation insurer Pinnacol Assurance will present a seminar, “One Toke Over the Line: Medical Marijuana in the Workplace,” on April 29 at the Aspen Square Hotel conference room.The topical issue – there are four medical marijuana dispensaries in Aspen and the state Legislature continued this week to grapple with how to better regulate dispensaries and growers – has already attracted more than the usual number of registrants, according to Erik Klanderud, ACRA director of member and visitor services. A typical workers compensation seminar on, say, back injuries, might draw an audience of 10 to 15 people; the medical marijuana presentation might fill the 50-person room to capacity, he said.”It’s a topic that’s coming up more and more in the workplace,” Klanderud said. “We’re going into an area we’ve never had to address before. It was illegal, it was black and white, and you could set your policy accordingly.”Employers can still rely on some fairly clear-cut laws, according to attorney Daniel Wennogle, of Balcomb & Green in Glenwood Springs, who will present the seminar.Wennogle won’t be giving any specific legal advice, but will offer information that he said will give confused employers a “reliable framework” for addressing the issue.Employers are apt to wonder, for example, what to do if employee drug testing reveals marijuana use by an individual who has obtained a registry card to use medicinal pot.”That is probably the biggest issue that I talk about in these seminars,” he said.Employers aren’t required to accommodate marijuana use in the workplace, and laws prohibit its use in situations that could endanger others, but those not well-versed in the law have questions, Wennogle said.”It’s when you get into the more attenuated or far-fetched scenarios, or when the nexus between the employer’s interests and the employee’s use of marijuana is not so strong and direct – I think that’s when you have the biggest controversy,” he said.”Given the explosion of marijuana dispensaries in the last year or so, it’s reasonable to conclude marijuana use might be increasing,” Wennogle added. “I don’t think any employer in a valley so small, with 20 or so dispensaries in it, could say that it won’t affect them at some point.”The 90-minute seminar begins at 10 a.m. It is free to ACRA member businesses and $15 for non-members. Attendees must RSVP to the chamber at 925-1940. janet@aspentimes.com


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