Denver CEO worries how new pot rules will affect hiring

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DENVER — Small amounts of marijuana will soon be legal in Colorado, but nearly two weeks after the election, some business owners worry that Amendment 64 could make it harder for them to make money and help their companies grow.

“We supply the federal government, state government, U.S. EPA and U.S. Geological Survey with equipment and we’re required to have a drug-free workplace so it sends a mixed message to our employees on what’s OK and what’s not OK,” said Jeff Popiel, President and CEO of Geotech, a Denver environmental business. “My fear with the legislation is more and more people will be doing drugs so we have fewer and fewer people that are able to come here to work, so the talent pool gets reduced.”

Popiel said the fear of passing a drug test caused his company’s pool of applicants to shrink when medical marijuana first arrived in Colorado. He’s concerned that the trend will continue under the new law. He also said both his business and Colorado have become a tougher sell with potential customers overseas.

“The opinion globally is are you kidding me? It’s ridiculous,” he said. “We talk about that more than we do our products and all the great assets that are in the state.”

One Amendment 64 backer said the fears of local businesses were overblown and that the new law won’t bind employer or employee.

“An employee can look at an employer’s drug policy, policy regarding marijuana, and make the decision whether they want to go for that job, apply for that job, or if they want to continue using marijuana,” said Joe Megyesy, an Amendment 64 consultant. “There’s nothing under Amendment 64 that says otherwise.”

The law is scheduled to go into effect in 2014.