10/13/08 505-343-9848

Changes to Occupational Health and Safety Regulations Regarding Illegal Drug Use – Deadline for Comments is October 15

There are some changes being proposed to the Occupational Health and Safety Bureau regulations regarding illegal drug use by employees. These changes would penalize employers for the illegal actions of their employees and would put the burden of enforcing the law on the backs of employers instead of law enforcement agencies.

The deadline to comment on the changes is OCTOBER 15 (WEDNESDAY). You must take action ASAP to protect yourself. We have listed some points to make below or copy portions of the letter that follows and add your own comments as well. If you don’t speak, only the prohibitionists in Santa Fe will be heard.

Email your comments immediately to butch.tongate@state.nm.us or

Mail to:   Mr. Butch Tongate
Occupational Health and Safety Bureau
525 Camino de los Marquez #3
Santa Fe, NM   87505

Points to Make:

1) Use of illegal drugs by employees is already illegal.

2) Requiring an employer to produce a written policy against illegal drug use by employees is OK but penalizing an employer for the illegal acts of his employee(s) is not acceptable.

3) Use of alcoholic beverages in a workplace is already controlled by existing federal and state worker’s compensation insurance laws and regulations as well as the state liquor control laws and regulations.

4) Requiring an employer to produce a written policy against any use of alcoholic beverages by employees without any exceptions will negatively affect the restaurant industry which is already regulated by state liquor control laws and regulations. For example: a wine seminar educating employees on wine sales often includes wine tasting.

Letter NMRA Sent to the Bureau (cut/paste and add your own comments):

Mr. Butch Tongate
Occupational Health and Safety Bureau
525 Camino de los Marquez, Suite 3
Santa Fe, NM 87505

Dear Mr. Tongate:

On behalf of the 1,100 New Mexico Restaurant Association (NMRA) members I would like to submit this formal comment on your proposed changes to the NM Occupational Health and Safety Regulations pertaining to prohibiting illegal drug use and alcoholic beverage use in the workplace.

It is the consensus of the Board of Directors of NMRA that illegal drug use is just that – ILLEGAL. Federal and state laws already make illegal drug use illegal, whether in the home, workplace or on the street.
Requiring an employer to produce a written policy against illegal drug use by employees is something that is already being done, but penalizing an employer for the illegal acts of employee(s) is not acceptable.  Most employers do have a written policy prohibiting unlawful drug use just as the government has laws prohibiting the same. To believe that employers have more control over persons in their employment than the force of the law is simply not the case. To penalize employers for the unknown illegal actions of their employees is profoundly unfair.

While we do not condone the illegal use of drugs anywhere, to make employers responsible for the illegal drug use of their employees puts the burden of drug enforcement laws on the backs of employers. We are not qualified in any way to enforce the drug laws of the state or the federal government. We pay taxes for police and the courts to enforce the law. This shifting of the burden is beyond comprehension.

The restaurant and liquor industry is one of the most regulated industries in the state. The state Liquor Control Act and the regulations promulgated by the Alcohol and Gaming Department of the Regulation and Licensing Division already control alcohol use at licensed establishments. These laws are enforced by the Special Investigation Division. Because of the nature of our business these laws allow for employee wine tastings while they prohibit any employee from becoming impaired or intoxicated.

Again, I emphasize that employers are not qualified to, and should not be burdened with, the enforcement of laws that already exist. Making more laws does not solve the problem. However, making the criminal responsible for his or her own unlawful behavior is something we could support.

Thank you for your consideration.

Carol Wight
New Mexico Restaurant Association


October 28, 2008
1:00 to 5:00 PM
Hotel Albuquerque

$19.95 per person by October 15 (includes after-forum reception)
$29.95 per person after October 15 (includes after-forum reception)

Register online or call NMRA at 505-343-9848 to register.

Co-sponsored by:
Tourism Association of New Mexico
NM Lodging Association
Greater Albuquerque Innkeepers Association


We have also developed a short member survey to see where you stand on the issues. Please take a few minutes to click on the link below and complete the survey before the Forum. Your opinions do matter.

Legislative Survey

The New Mexico Restaurant Association’s mission is to empower the food and beverage industry by promoting and protecting common values and interests. It has more than 1,000 members in 111 cities all over New Mexico, who join together for meetings, seminars and the hospitality industry awards to honor the industry’s top achievers. It has actively represented and promoted the food service industry in New Mexico since 1946.