Minnesota Marijuana Legalization: What Employers Need to Know

July 6 2023
4 min read

The Minnesota legislature recently passed – and the governor has signed – a law legalizing adult use marijuana in the state beginning August 1, 2023. The new law presents several challenges for employers that conduct drug screening as part of the hiring process, but it also clarifies how and when employers may test employees or prospective employees for cannabis.

Widespread state legalization of marijuana has contributed to a rise in positive tests as well as workplace safety hazards, according to a study by Quest Diagnostics. However, as in other states, the Minnesota law allows for continued cannabis workplace testing for specific industries under certain circumstances to mitigate on-the-job safety concerns. 

This blog will share specifics about the Minnesota marijuana law and outline the exceptions that allow for pre-employment cannabis testing. The goal is to prepare employers for a new paradigm, and ensure they are both compliant and vigilant about enforcing companies’ drug and alcohol policies. 

Join us for a timely webinar on How to Protect Your Workplace from Legal Drug Use.

Minnesota’s Marijuana Law

Like other laws passed in the last several years, Minnesota’s marijuana law allows for adults 21 years of age or older to possess or grow specific amount of cannabis products, ranging from raw flower marijuana to prepared cannabis products, such as concentrates, edibles, and beverages. There are possession limits for each form of cannabis, but there are no limits regarding strength and potency. 

What Employers Should Know

The most important thing to know is that the Minnesota marijuana law changes the state’s definition of a “drug” by statute. Therefore, employers can no longer require pre-employment or random cannabis testing simply because they have a “drug testing” requirement or prohibit “drugs” in the workplace. Also, if an employee uses marijuana outside of work hours and off the work premises, then they cannot be disciplined for “drug use” – this would be a violation of the state’s “Lawful Consumable Products” statute. 

However, reasonable suspicion testing of cannabis would still be allowed under some circumstance, including:

  • If the employer reasonably suspects the employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • If the employee has violated the employers written rules prohibiting the use, possession, sale, or transfer of drugs or alcohol during work.
  • If the employee has sustained a personal injury or has caused another employee to sustain a personal injury.
  • If the employee has caused a work-related accident or was operating or helping to operate machinery, equipment, or vehicles involved in a work-related accident.

The bottom line: Minnesota’s legalization law specifically prohibits employers from testing job applicants for marijuana as a condition of employment, and it will now be illegal to refuse to hire a candidate solely because of a positive cannabis test result. 

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Exceptions to the Minnesota’s Marijuana Law for Employers

There are many exceptions to the new Minnesota law, specifically defining which workplace positions may still be subject to cannabis testing. Under the law, marijuana is still classified as a “drug” when used by certain employees and may be tested for in Minnesota. 

These exceptions include:

  • Safety-sensitive positions, defined in Minnesota as jobs “in which an impairment caused by drug or alcohol usage would threaten the health or safety of any person.”
  • Peace officers and firefighters.
  • Positions requiring face-to-face care, education, training, supervision, counseling, consultation, or medical assistance to children.
  • Positions requiring commercial driver’s licenses or positions that require the employee to operate a motor vehicle for which the state or federal government requires drug testing.
  • Any position funded by a federal grant or any other position for which state or federal law requires testing applicants and/or employees for cannabis. 

Complications and Questions

Some aspects of Minnesota’s marijuana law remain confusing for employers, including the lack of a standard measurement for “impairment” on the job. In addition, there is scant case law available to set guidelines for employers’ rights and responsibilities when seeking to protect their companies from liability by drug screening for cannabis use. 

How Minnesota Companies Should Respond to New Cannabis Laws

After consulting with legal resources, employers should connect with their drug and alcohol screening partner to determine how the screening process will change and how to implement these changes. 

Reach out to Orange Tree Employment Screening and learn more about how Minnesota’s marijuana laws will impact your background check and drug screening processes. 


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Orange Tree Employment Screening helps companies win their race to fill open positions by providing fast and easy background check and drug testing services. We are committed to helping companies create safer workplaces, mitigate financial risk, and avoid legal exposure. We forge long-term partnerships with our clients by offering a full range of technology-led screening solutions predicated on best practice and legally defensible screening programs.

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