Medical Marijuana in the Workplace: What Lawyers Are Saying

Medical-marijuana laws present employers with a unique dilemma regarding how they handle employees or applicants who test positive for illegal drug use as compared to how they handle persons who test positive for prescribed painkillers or other drugs. Given the status of medical marijuana, employers in various industries who conduct drug and alcohol tests may need to re-evaluate their drug policies…”

For your reference, here’s what lawyers and law firms are writing about the hazy issues surrounding medical marijuana and the workplace.

- Mastering the Legalities of Medical Marijuana (by Dinsmore & Shohl):

“Fourteen states (and the District of Columbia) have medical marijuana laws allowing patients to use marijuana for medical reasons. Those states are: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

State medical marijuana laws cannot completely legalize marijuana because the drug remains illegal under federal law regardless of the reasons for its use. However, because almost every state has some form of disability antidiscrimination law protecting employees at work, which includes the employer’s duty to reasonably accommodate, employers need to know if medical marijuana must be treated the same as a prescription for a painkiller…” Read complete analysis»

- Also from Dinsmore & Shohl, see Medical Marijuana and the Workplace:

“…a positive marijuana urine test could be indicating usage an hour ago, last weekend, or even three weeks ago. It also means that a positive test for marijuana does not easily correlate to a current impairment, such as can be more readily detected in a test for alcohol, where tests detect both recent use as well as probable impairment.” Read on»

* Regional Analysis:

- Arizona Employers Must be Ready for New Medical Marijuana Use Law (by Ford & Harrison LLP):

“The law provides that employers may not discriminate against a person in hiring, termination or by imposing any term or condition of employment or otherwise penalize a person because of that person’s status as a medical marijuana cardholder, unless a failure to do so would cause an employer to lose a monetary or licensing related benefit under federal law or regulations. As noted above, medical marijuana cardholders may include not only patients, but also designated caregivers and nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary agents. Thus, the law creates a new category of individuals protected from discrimination…” Read complete analysis»

- Michigan Medical Marijuana Act Does Not Prohibit Termination for Positive Drug Test (by Warner Norcross & Judd):

“In a case that has been closely watched by the employer community, a Federal Court has held that Wal-Mart did not unlawfully terminate an employee who tested positive for marijuana in violation of company policy even though the employee possessed a registry card under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA). Casias v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 1:10-CV-781 (W.D. Mich. Feb. 11, 2011). The Casias decision is the first one to address whether the MMMA provides any sort of employment protection for medical marijuana users.” Read complete analysis»

- California Supreme Court Answers Question—Are Employers Required to Accommodate Medical Marijuana Use? (2008 analysis by Williams Kastner):

“The California Supreme Court determined as matter of law that California’s disability discrimination laws do not require employers to accommodate the use of illegal drugs and the Act did not change marijuana’s status as an illegal drug; it was simply a narrow exception to some of the criminal laws. It also found that the Compassionate Use Act does not require employers to accommodate marijuana use by their employees. The Supreme Court held that the employer had not prohibited the employee from using marijuana, it had only refused to employ him since he did so…” Read complete analysis»

- Medical Marijuana Comes to New Jersey: Is Your Business Prepared? (by Fox Rothschild):

 “On January 18, 2010, New Jersey joined more than a dozen other states in legalizing the medical use of marijuana. The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act is principally aimed at protecting medical marijuana users from criminal prosecution. The Act, however, also has important ramifications for employers now attempting to deal with employees who legally obtain marijuana in New Jersey…” Read complete analysis»