The Evolution of Marijuana Legalization: What Hiring Managers, HR Professionals and Sales Candidates Need to Know

By Andy Wright

Here’s what we know so far about the changing legal nature of marijuana:

As of early April, 28 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of medical marijuana. 8 of those states have also decriminalized recreational use of marijuana. All the same, it is important to note that marijuana is still illegal and classified as a drug on the federal level.

Company Policies on Marijuana Use:

Because of the differing federal and state laws, sales companies have a lot of leverage in deciding what their specific drug policy will be for their company. They are well within their rights to deny employment should a sales candidate’s drug test indicate marijuana usage, even if marijuana is legal in the state. This is allowed, because they can choose to abide by the federal laws. For companies who have maintained a zero-tolerance drug policy, they will likely embrace the opportunity to keep their drug policy the same, regardless of changes in state laws. In this case, it is suggested that employers clearly explain to their employees that, even if recreational marijuana is legal, if they are found to be using marijuana, they can still lose their job.

However, many other companies are opting to remove marijuana from pre-hiring screening, based on new state laws. Yet, they are within their rights to terminate employees for underperformance or if found to be working under the influence of marijuana.

This remains a murky area, but one thing most experts agree upon, is that each company needs to have a clearly defined drug policy. In fact, some states mandate that employers have a written drug-testing policy, wherein the company states its specific position regarding the use of marijuana in states where it has been legalized.

Legalized Marijuana and Sales Candidates

Sales candidates would be wise to understand the exact drug policy of a company they are seeking to work for. Assuming that pot will not be an issue in drug testing—in states where recreational or medicinal marijuana has been legalized—is a dangerous gamble. Failing to understand what is expected of you as a sales candidate, only to have a drug test which is positive for marijuana prevent you from being hired, will be a waste of everyone’s time.

Sales Recruiters Help Hiring Managers & Sales Candidates Prevent Confusion Over Drug Policies

At Grapevine Targeting Sales Recruiting, we take the guesswork out of drug testing policies for candidates. During our pre-screen interviews with candidates (before we forward candidates to hiring managers), we verbally inform candidates of the background check and drug testing requirements that specific companies have. This is done to address any potential issues pro-actively, so neither hiring manager, nor HR professional, nor the sales candidate is unclear on what is allowed, and what may be prohibited.

Andy Wright is the owner and an active recruiter at Grapevine – Targeted Sales Recruiting. Andy began his recruiting career in 2003, and has a proven track record of helping companies both large and small increase sales team retention and productivity through recruiting top talent. Prior to launching Grapevine in December of 2011, Andy held key leadership positions for two Twin Cities-based search firms, training and managing teams of recruiters while developing new business and managing national account relationships. Visit, call 952.856.2371 or