High times in the workplace
Throw on Black Sabbath, roll a joint, drive to work, have a good smoke and start your day free and easy.
Is this about to become a common routine for some employees in the LBM industry in the coming years, particularly with more states and municipalities legalizing recreational and medical marijuana? Will they be making deliveries behind the wheel of a flatbed and using state or local laws as their defense for living the high life?
Not necessarily — especially when it comes to Department of Transportation laws, which fall under federal jurisdiction.
As of January 2018, 29 states and the District of Columbia had laws that legalize some form of marijuana use for medical purposes. Meanwhile, nine states allow recreational use of marijuana, including: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington state, as well as Washington, D.C. Also, 13 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands have decriminalized marijuana use.
Despite all the changes in regional regulation that support marijuana use, especially when it comes to getting high at home, they do not support the use of marijuana by drivers and other safety-related positions.
According to the DOT, marijuana remains illegal under federal law. The agency says any employees who are in safety-sensitive positions remain subject to federally mandated drug testing. This includes pilots, school bus drivers, train engineers and operators of commercial vehicles who remain prohibited from the use of marijuana.
But there’s bound to be an employee who argues that they received a thumbs-up from their doctor and have a medical prescription that allows them to use marijuana. That’s where doing your homework as a business owner or manager comes into play.
According to Angelo Fillippi, from the law firm of Kelley Kronenberg, it’s pertinent that businesses put their own regulations on the books and consult an attorney in the process. Kelley Kronenberg operates nine firms in Florida, as well as locations in Atlanta and Chicago.
Fillippi recently discussed the matter at the 2018 International Builders’ Show in Orlando, Fla., during a seminar titled “Dazed and Confused? The Buzz Surrounding Legalized Marijuana in the Construction Industry.”
Fillippi argues that in order to counter any challenges from employees that might stem from a prescription, business owners should clearly define in the employee handbook any intolerance for employees using marijuana, even if it has been prescribed. Internal regulations drawn up by the business should be reviewed by an attorney.
“Given the nature of the construction industry, it would be wise that you adopt and implement a zero-tolerance drug policy,” Fillippi said.
He advised that the policy should state that possession, use, solicitation or impairment from marijuana use in the workplace will not be tolerated. And while it can be prescribed, it will be treated like any other lawfully prescribed drug that will impair functioning at work. Handbook regulations should also outline that the workplace will not tolerate impairment from drugs, including reporting to work impaired.
“One misconception is that medical marijuana is not as euphoric as recreational marijuana,” Fillippi said. “But medical marijuana is often just as strong or stronger than the recreational type.”
Firing an employee for marijuana use becomes another matter entirely. There must be a firm drug test performed along with having a clear and concise drug policy in the books.
“There is no uniform answer to whether you can fire an employee for testing positive for marijuana,” Fillippi said, while noting that it’s strongly advised to seek legal counsel for guidance.
Georgia-Pacific building new softwood lumber facility
Georgia-Pacific announced that it will build a new softwood lumber production facility in Warren County, Ga.
Construction of the $135 million, 340,000-sq.-ft. technologically advanced plant is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2018 with an anticipated startup in spring 2019. The new facility will be located on property where an existing GP lumber mill is situated.
GP’s existing lumber plant in Warren County will continue full operations until the new facility is completed. After startup of the new plant, Georgia-Pacific estimates that it will hire an additional 30 to 40 employees, bringing its workforce in Warren County to approximately 150 people.
“We have enough property next to our existing mill in Warren County to build a larger facility equipped with the latest in lumber manufacturing technology,” said Fritz Mason, vice president and general manager of Georgia-Pacific Lumber. “We have a great team at Warrenton and building a new state-of-the-art facility on this site will make it competitive for years to come. The team has earned it.”
The new facility will be capable of over three times the output of the current facility, the company said. The existing facility has been operating since the early 1970s.
Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific employs more than 7,200 people at 18 locations in Georgia. Since 2006 the company has invested approximately $1.9 billion in additional capital and acquisitions in Georgia.
Once in production, the new facility will receive approximately 185 truckloads of pine logs a day and produce approximately 350 million board-feet of lumber per year.
“Last year we announced a similar project in Talladega, Ala., that will begin production this summer," Mason said. "This new facility at Warrenton is the second of several we have in our current plan. The demand for lumber continues to improve as the housing market recovers, so we continue to evaluate similar investments in several states across the country to serve our customers’ needs for lumber.”
Congressman lined up for LegCon
The upcoming Spring Meeting and Legislative Conference hosted by the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association leans heavily on in-person meetings with elected officials. It will also welcome voices from the halls of power to address attendees with insights from inside Washington.
As previously reported, Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) will address the conference during a breakfast keynote. Also speaking will be Congressman David Young (R-IA).
NLBMDA’S Spring Meeting and Legislative Conference is taking place from March 19 – 21, 2018 at The Wink Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Young began his political career working as a legislative and policy aide in Iowa and on Capitol Hill. He initially served the people of Iowa as Chief of Staff to Senator Chuck Grassley.
Now in his second-term representing Iowa’s third district, Rep. Young serves on the House Appropriations Committee. His subcommittee assignments include Agriculture, Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development and Financial Services and General Government.
According to his bio, “The congressman is driven to fix problems, and is a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 48 members of Congress equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, who are committed to forging bipartisan cooperation on key issues. His mission is to make government more efficient, effective, and accountable.”
The agenda includes several opportunities to learn about key issues affecting the lumber and building material industry from Washington policy experts and political commentators. The event will culminate with a day for attendees to conduct in person meetings with their elected officials in Congress. For more information visit www.leg-con.org.