Zero tolerance for drugs, alcohol in workplace

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Posted on Oct 11 2018

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The Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Saipan Chamber of Commerce are reminding workers that majority of businesses in the CNMI have zero tolerance policies when it comes to drugs and alcohol or reporting for work under the influence.

That means despite Gov. Ralph DLG Torres having already signed a bill into law that legalizes cannabis in the CNMI, it is still considered an illegal substance since certain policies are needed to be in place before marijuana use becomes completely legal.

“We must remember that cannabis remains illegal under the U.S. federal law. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama administration memo that recommended a hands-off approach to marijuana,” HANMI chair Gloria Cavanagh told Saipan Tribune. “Just because cannabis becames legal in the CNMI does not prevent employers from banning use. The majority of us have zero tolerance drug policies. This will not change.”

She added that employees caught using marijuana in the workplace or reporting for work under the influence would be subjected to disciplinary action or can be terminated from their job.

Cavanagh said she doesn’t believe that the legalization of cannabis for recreational use in the CNMI will support the local travel industry. “Instead, it will make visitors of Saipan considered potential criminals since our main markets (definitely Korea, probably China) consider it illegal.”

“Even though Saipan is known as safe place for family oriented travel, it’s way forward is gambling and cannabis. If a visitor was to come to the CNMI and state at the border that they are here because cannabis is legal, the federal government can deny them access and ban them from traveling here.”

She added that even non-U.S. citizens and green card holders are not exempt. “Additionally, non-U.S. citizens and green card holders may be subject to deportation by the federal government if caught using or purchasing marijuana.”

SCC president Velma Palacios said the CNMI Cannabis Commission must first be established. “Although the CNMI has legalized marijuana, the federal government has not. It is still federally illegal under the Controlled Substance Act. The CNMI has to set up the Cannabis Commission, create regulations and promulgate them.”

“Businesses must be aware of both federal and CNMI laws. Some businesses may be receiving federal funds and it could jeopardize their funding for federal projects or contracts.”

Palacios said that businesses always have their own drug and alcohol policies and advised employees who need it for medicinal use to show a doctor’s letter or prescription.

“We do not want our employees to be impaired. It may be legal but employees are still responsible to follow the policies of their workplace. As for medical use, a letter from your doctor will be required.”

She added that even banks could not handle transactions involving the sale of marijuana. “As growing and selling marijuana violate federal law, [Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.] banks are not allowed to handle any [proceeds] derived from marijuana transactions. This will be difficult for businesses to set up accounts with these FDIC banks.”

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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