HR Management & Compliance

South Dakota Voters Just Say No to Medical Marijuana

By Jane Pfeifle

Though a similar measure was narrowly defeated in 2006, this year South Dakota resoundingly rejected Initiative 13, which called for the legalization of medical marijuana. As a result employers can breathe a sigh of relief because the measure raised numerous questions about how they might be called on to respond to employees who were registered users.

Under the proposal, an employer couldn’t refuse to hire someone who held a marijuana registration. Yet what was unclear under the initiative was how employees who were under the influence at work could be treated:

  • Would there be special rules for employees who worked in schools, jails, and nursing homes?
  • How could one deal with the odor of marijuana that the employee might carry while he or she interacted with the public or other employees?
  • Would the employer be able to share information about the employee’s registration, or would that violate HIPAA and employee privacy?

While you might have compassion for those who need medical marijuana, you can relax that you don’t have to be the employer that becomes the legal guinea pig for those questions.

On a related note, South Dakotans clearly oppose any type of smoking as voters turned out in droves to prevent smoking in bars, restaurants, and video lottery and Deadwood casinos. By November 10, only hotel rooms, tobacco shops, and existing cigar bars will be exempt.

Jane Pfeifle is the editor of South Dakota Employment Law Letter and an attorney with Lynn, Jackson, Shultz & Lebrun, P.C., in Rapid City. She can be reached at (605) 342-2592.