Total Compensation: Hot Lunches, Beer, and Cigarettes

Government sponsored alcoholism is now keeping the streets of Amsterdam clean and tidy.  Each morning at 9 a.m., alcoholics arrive at a Rainbow Group Center to begin work, removing litter from the streets and sidewalks, as well as from nearby Oosterpark. These workers ” take extended breaks for beer, cigarettes and a hot lunch, all provided free of charge,” before ending their workday at 3 p.m. So far local residents support the program. Since it began, “local police have received fewer reports of stabbings and muggings in the park.

Oosterpark

Oosterpark, Amsterdam

While the Dutch government does not fund the entire program, it is the primary sponsor. Critiques may complain that the government is not only enabling but fueling alcoholism. Proponents counter that the program offers  meaning and purpose to its participants’ lives. They also point out the savings generated by fewer arrests exceeds the cost of  providing people with beer, cigarettes, and  food in exchange for their services.

What’s your take?  Will this strategy attract unemployed alcoholics to Amsterdam just as the country’s decriminalization of marijuana  has attracted pot users as a Dutch tourist industry? Or is it a creative, humane way to reduce both litter and panhandling in one fell swoop?

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What’s in the Brownies? Employers Retain the Right to Enforce Drug-Free Workplaces in States Where Marijuana Has Been Legalized.

Green Wednesday

On New Year’s Day 2014, which has become known as Green Wednesday in Colorado, recreational marijuana became legally available to shoppers. And shop they did!   CNN’s Michael Martinez reports that “Indeed, before the 3D Cannabis Center opened at 8 a.m. MT, more than 100 people were waiting in snowfall and cold under gray skies.

In fact, as the day wore on some shops raised prices or reduced purchasing limits. This despite state and local taxes totaling more than twenty-five percent.

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 So what does this mean for employers wanting to maintain drug-free workplaces?

Fortunately, that question was settled before the recreational use of marijuana became legal in Colorado and Washington State. With medicinal marijuana having already been legalized in twenty states plus Washington, DC ,it’s not surprising that this question had cropped up in courts across the country well before Green Wednesday. Those courts have upheld the rights employers to terminate employees who have tested positive for marijuana based on the fact that marijuana use is still a violation of federal law. The Controlled Substances Act (CSA)  prohibits the possession and improper use of any controlled substance except in a manner authorized by the CSA. It categorizes marijuana as Schedule I drug.

In fact, one of the most recent court cases, Curry v. MillerCoors, Inc., was heard in Colorado. In this case, Federal Judge John Kane  “rejected a terminated employee’s claim that his employer discriminated against him on the basis of his disability when it discharged him for testing positive for marijuana.”

For now employers in all states, those which have legalized marijuana and those which have not, may continue to require not only applicants but employees to take drug tests and have the right to dismiss those employees who test positive. Even so, employers should take certain precautions to minimize risks.  On its webpage summarizing the ramifications of Curry v MillerCoors, Inc., The LEH Law Group offers employers some useful takeaways which include:

  • Having a written drug-testing policy
  • Including a policy provision regarding non-cooperation
  • Applying drug-testing policies consistently
  • Not asking employees if their doctor has recommended medicinal marijuana use

Visit The LEH Law Group’s website for details. And go easy on the brownies.