The Impact of Proposal 1 on Schools

Lusk Albertson PLC's picture

In a decisive vote, Michigan voters adopted Proposal 1 in Tuesday's election, paving the way for legalized use of marijuana throughout the state. The specific language of the ballot proposal was as follows:

Allow individuals 21 and older to purchase, possess and use marijuana and marijuana-infused edibles, and grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal consumption. Impose a 10-ounce limit for marijuana kept at residences and require amounts over 2.5 ounces be secured in locked containers. Create a state licensing system for marijuana businesses and allow municipalities to ban or restrict them. Permit retail sales of marijuana and edibles subject to a 10% tax, dedicated to implementation costs, clinical trials, schools, roads, and municipalities where marijuana businesses are located. Change several current violations from crimes to civil infractions.

So, what does this development mean for schools?

Surprisingly, the impact should be relatively minimal. For students, most of whom are well-below the required age of 21, Prop 1 does nothing to grant rights for recreational use of marijuana. For those students that are 21 or older (typically special education students receiving services until age 26), users - if any - will most likely be those with medical marijuana prescriptions. Still, given the culture of permissibility that will assuredly flow from Prop 1's adoption, school districts may want to consider amendment of their student codes of conduct to specifically address marijuana use, if it's not already covered. Those edicts should fall in line with the school district's prohibitions on smoking, vaping, e-cigarettes, etc.

The more pervasive issue is likely to be with employees, who will have the rights outlined above as a result of Prop 1's adoption and certainly may elect to partake in recreational use to unwind from the rigors of being an educator. Notwithstanding the rights afforded by Prop 1, however, the school district - as an employer - still controls the employment setting. For example, alcohol is legal and the school district can still prohibit an employee from using it on school grounds or being under the influence while on duty. Those same edicts would now extend to the legal recreational use of marijuana by a private citizen/employee.

To that end, school district policies that mandate a "drug and alcohol-free workplace" will serve to keep marijuana out of the school setting. In addition, federal law requires all school districts to maintain "drug and alcohol-free workplace" policies to receive certain federal funding. For those districts that are LA School Policy Service clients, those policies, as crafted and contained within your policies manuals, will adequately prohibit the new rights created by Prop 1. If you are not sure if your policies, as currently constructed, sufficiently create an expectation that marijuana has no place in school, you should contact legal counsel or your policy provider for an opinion.

Even with policies in place, there may still be those employees who partake and come to work under the influence. Administrators should be vigilant in monitoring staff and should act promptly and decisively to investigate any employee suspected of being under the influence while at work, just as in the case of alcohol use. Necessary responses may include placing an employee on administrative leave, having them drug tested, or other disciplinary action.

For more information or to address any questions your district might have, please contact