The legalities of employment and medical marijuana usage are a quagmire of interpretation.
The do’s and the don’ts are a confusing jumble of legalese that’s enough to make your head spin but here we try to simplify the issue as much as possible.
Whether you are an employer or employee, the first rule of thumb is to acquaint yourself with the laws surrounding medical marijuana in your State.
If medical weed has not been decriminalized in the area in which you live then the answer is simple. As an employer, you don’t employ anyone using marijuana in the workplace, and as a medical marijuana patient, you have to abide by the laws of the land.
The plot thickens
Sounds simple enough but the plot thickens.
You can still get fired if you use weed at your workplace even if you are a legally registered medical marijuana patient and even if you live in one of the States where pot has been decriminalized.
Then, on the other, there are some legal States that have decided that an employer cannot discriminate against a worker who uses medical marijuana during working hours.
But if you live in a State that has banned marijuana outright then employers can fire or refuse to hire anyone who fails a cannabis drug test, even if that person is a legally registered medical marijuana patient.
Remember, the law is on their side because weed is still classified as illegal at federal level.
It’s as clear as mud
Don’t feel embarrassed if these explanations have not fully answered all of your questions because, quite frankly, it’s about as clear as mud as confusion reigns supreme in many workplaces.
Let’s try to boil it down even further
In legal States, marijuana may or may not be banned by an employer – it is his prerogative to choose even if you are a registered medical user. Those who agree to employ you have to abide by the laws of the local government and this could mean regulating the type of pot medication allowed in the workplace. Generally, smoking is banned in most workplaces so smoking pot will definitely fall into the no-no category. Also, your job description may be modified.
So, as an employee, you will be well advised to seek guidance about the workplace and medical marijuana laws either with the human resources department at your place of work or with an attorney well versed in employment law.
But what is clear
As it stands, the laws surrounding medical marijuana stipulate that you obtain a written recommendation from your doctor clearly stating that you are required to take marijuana for a specified illness or disability. This written proof will protect you from possible prosecution.
Who qualifies for medical marijuana?
The list is quite substantial and includes:
- Crohn’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Other conditions that may qualify include:
- Muscle Spasms
Why do some employers choose drug tests?
Some employers resort to drug tests because a worker under the influence can create health and safety hazards in the workplace. Furthermore, their actions can have a negative effect on employee morale, as well as decreasing productivity.
Drug tests will be conducted on employees and prospective work candidates in the field of aviation, Department of Defense contracts, mass transit, NASA contracts and trucking. These areas of employment are regarded as safety-sensitive and are regulated by federal agencies in fields such as aviation, highway and coast guard.
It is also interesting to note that Occupational Health & Safety (OSA) states that in terms of the penalties that can be imposed should an employee fail a drug test can be disciplinary action or termination of the work contract. Work-givers are also legally able to refuse to give a job to an applicant who tests positive for drug use.
It is obvious that the laws surrounding the use of medical marijuana in the workplace need to be streamlined to give employers guidance and a clearer direction in their dealings with this rather sensitive issue.
What is also obviousis that until pot is legalized by the federal government, employers are within their rights to conduct random drug tests on members of their workforce or potential employees. So, a medical marijuana card does not give you a license to operate freely at work becausethe courts have found that no employer is under any obligation to refrain from taking action against an employee with a medical marijuana card.
Some of the biggest concerns about drug use and the workplace include safety issues resulting from memory loss, impaired mobility, an altered sense of time, clear thinking and the inability to solve problems. The Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace has found that fifty percent of the accidents and forty percent of the thefts which occur in the workplace are caused by drug abuse.
What is key, is that employers are transparent about their attitude to the use of medical marijuana. They should communicate their drug policies clearly so as to avoid any possible confusion should it become necessary to terminate a worker’s contract with the company.