Connecticut’s New Marijuana Law And Its Ramifications For Independent Schools – Cannabis & Hemp – United States – Mondaq News Alerts

Effective July 1, 2021, Connecticut became one of a growing
number of states to legalize the recreational use of
marijuana.  Under this new law, it is now legal in Connecticut for
individuals age 21 or older to possess, use, or otherwise consume
marijuana or marijuana products, subject to certain restrictions
and limitations.  As a result, many independent schools are in
the process of determining if and how this new law will impact
current policies and practices, particularly as related to faculty
and staff who may drive students as part of their job
responsibilities.  Below is a brief summary of some key
aspects of the new law and responses to frequently asked questions
from independent schools regarding the implications of the new
marijuana law in Connecticut.

Key Aspects of the Law

Though the law contains provisions to regulate the sale of
marijuana, of primary interest to schools are the provisions
related to the possession and use of recreational marijuana by
employees.  Many of these workplace provisions do not go into
effect until July 2022.  However, it is important for
independent schools to recognize that the law exempts certain
employers, including independent schools, from many of these
workplace requirements, including the requirement to adopt
workplace policies to address cannabis possession or use. 
This exemption provides greater flexibility for independent schools
to develop employment policies regulating the possession and use of
recreational marijuana, particularly on their school campuses.

Therefore, while independent schools may be exempt from the
legal requirement to adopt workplace policies in this area, it is
still advisable for schools to draft or revise employee policies to
ensure they adequately reflect the current law and clearly
communicate the school’s expectations and policies regarding
both recreational and medicinal marijuana in the workplace.
Boarding schools with residential faculty, and any schools that
currently use faculty/staff to drive students, will be particularly
interested in ensuring they are communicating clearly to their
employees about the rules for employee use and possession of
recreational marijuana.  It will be important for all
independent schools to put all faculty and staff on notice
regarding the school’s expectations and requirements well in
advance of the new school year.


Is recreational cannabis use legal for everyone, without

No. The law generally allows only adults age
twenty-one (21) or older
 to possess or use
cannabis recreationally, up to specified limits.  This
permissive use of recreational marijuana supplements existing law
that already allows for the palliative use of marijuana by
qualified patients. This new law establishes penalties for adults
who possess more than the legal limits, including fines of $100 for
the first offense and $250 for a subsequent offense.  For
possession of larger amounts, an individual can face a fine of $500
for the first offense and, for subsequent offenses, a Class C
misdemeanor, punishable by up to three months in

This new law also establishes various penalties for possession
of cannabis by minors, depending on factors such as the
individual’s age, whether it is the minor’s first or
subsequent offense, and the amount of cannabis the minor

Can individuals smoke, possess or use cannabis in school
buildings and on school grounds?

Effective October 1, 2021, the law expands the existing ban on
smoking on school grounds by expressly prohibiting smoking (or
vaping) marijuana on school grounds or in “any area” of
school buildings or facilities under the school’s
control.  Notably, however, the law itself does not go so far
as to prohibit the possession of marijuana or
its recreational use  on school grounds. 
Given that current law specifically prohibits even qualified
patients from ingesting marijuana for medicinal reasons on school
grounds, schools will want to develop clear policies that
articulate their expectations for faculty, staff and others
regarding the possession of marijuana on campus generally, as well
as the recreational use of marijuana (other than smoking) on school

In addition, while this new law does not specifically prohibit
the possession, use, or consumption (other than smoking) of
recreational cannabis in school buildings or on school grounds,
schools should be mindful that any entities receiving Federal
grants must provide a drug-free workplace, and marijuana (cannabis)
remains a controlled substance under Federal law. 

Can the school prohibit cannabis use by employees at work?

Yes. As noted above, the law prohibits anyone, including school
employees, from smoking, using electronic nicotine or cannabis
delivery systems, or vapor products in facilities under the
school’s control, in a school building, or on school

Like any employer, schools can prohibit employees from being
under the influence of marijuana while working (including when
working remotely) or when reasonably expected to be performing job
responsibilities, including when faculty and staff are on call or
otherwise on duty, such as overnight duty in a dorm.

As exempted employers, independent schools also have wide
latitude to implement rules that prohibit the possession, use and
consumption of marijuana, beyond what is prohibited by the
law.  For example, a school may elect to prohibit possession
and use of marijuana on school grounds, subject only to provisions
relating to medicinal use.  As an exempted employer,
schools’ policies may also put employees on notice that they
may be disciplined even for off-duty use of marijuana and schools
may refuse to hire new employees based on prior use of
marijuana.  Finally, given the flexibility afforded school
employers, schools can also penalize an employee or refuse to hire
a prospective employee who tests positive for THC, including an
employee who tests positive as a result of the random drug testing
required for anyone driving a student activity vehicle.

Despite this latitude, schools must, however, continue to allow
qualifying patients to possess palliative
marijuana, subject to statutory limits, while at work. 
Notably, such qualifying patients are still prohibited
from ingesting marijuana in the workplace, on
school grounds or in a dormitory, on a school bus or any other
moving vehicle, and in the presence of any person under the age of
eighteen (18).  Therefore, when adopting policies on this
issue, schools should carefully consider their positions regarding
recreational and palliative use of marijuana, so as not to run
afoul of the state law prohibiting employers from penalizing an
employee solely on the basis of the individual’s status as a
qualifying patient.

Can the school prohibit marijuana use by employees outside of

Schools have discretion to take adverse employment action
against employees for using recreational marijuana, even if they do
so outside of work, off of school grounds, and within the bounds of
the law, whether or not they have a written policy for marijuana
use.  To be sure, as exempted employers, independent schools
can refuse to hire or take disciplinary action based on an
employee’s possession, use or consumption of recreational
cannabis inside or outside the workplace, including before
employment, with or without a policy in place. 
Notwithstanding their status as exempted employers, however,
schools are well advised to adopt a written policy explaining their
expectations and requirements for employees, and ensure that
applicants and employees are given proper notice of such
policy.  When developing such policies, schools are reminded
that they cannot refuse to hire, penalize, or discharge an employee
based on an individual’s status as a qualifying.

Can independent schools still require drug testing of

Independent schools can and, in some cases, must require
employees to submit to drug testing, just as they did prior to
passage of this law.

First, a school may require an employee to submit to a
urinalysis drug test if it has reasonable suspicion that an
employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which
adversely affects or could adversely affect the employee’s job

In addition, schools may, and sometimes must require employees
to submit to pre-employment and random urinalysis drug tests in
certain circumstances.  For example, an independent school
must, after providing written notification at the time of
application, require employees who will drive school buses or
student transportation vehicles to submit to (1) pre-employment
urinalysis drug tests and (2) subsequent random urinalysis drug
tests, in accordance with state and federal law.  Importantly,
federal law continues to classify marijuana as a controlled

If a prospective or current employee receives a positive
urinalysis drug test result and  a confirmatory
positive test result using a second urinalysis drug test that meets
statutory requirements, an employer cannot employ that
individual as a driver for two years.  Schools are
advised that these testing requirements, and potential penalties,
continue to exist despite the legalization of recreational
marijuana.  Therefore, it is important for schools to
communicate this information to current and prospective employees
so that anyone who will be required to drive students as part of
their job understands that even recreational use of marijuana may
have adverse employment actions.

What should be included in a school’s policy regarding

As noted above, schools are advised to draft or update their
employment policies to account for the legalization of recreational
marijuana, including how they will address (1) use of recreational
marijuana in the physical workplace, including in faculty
residences; (2) use of recreational marijuana in the remote
workplace; (3) use of recreational marijuana outside of the
workplace; and (4) drug testing of employees.  As noted above,
the school’s policy should also consider and address how these
rules will do


1. These penalties apply when an individual
possesses at least five ounces of cannabis plant material and/or an
equivalent amount of cannabis products or eight ounces of cannabis
and/or the equivalent amount of cannabis products in a locked
container at home or in a locked glove box or trunk of a motor

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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