Accommodations for Medical Marijuana usage in the Workplace

By: Gregg Zeff
On: March 26, 2020

While many employers have policies that prohibit the use of marijuana, many states have laws saying that employers must allow employees with a medical marijuana prescription to use medical marijuana if it qualifies as a reasonable accommodation, or face charges of disability discrimination.

Medical Marijuana

What if I fail a Marijuana test at Work but have a Medical Card?

In Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and many other states, failing a drug test with a medical marijuana card does not guarantee any sort of action against you. In fact, most states that have voted to legalize medical cannabis have added amendments forbidding employers from punishing employees who have failed marijuana drug tests. The important thing to remember if you have a medical marijuana card is to ensure that your employer is aware of your medical status in the event of a failed test.

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Can I Get Fired for Using Prescribed Medical Marijuana?

Although employers cannot discriminate against employees who have prescriptions for medical marijuana, that does not necessarily protect you from action if you are coming to work under the influence. For instance, the state of New Jersey protects medical marijuana employees who use cannabis off site after work hours, but not those who use on-site during their shift. Also, an employer may determine that a part of your job is hazardous and argue that an employee being under the influence of marijuana endangers the employee and those around him. At that point, the employer may have sufficient reason to dismiss that employee, despite having protected status. However, if the employee is not under the influence of marijuana at work, employers cannot terminate medical marijuana patients just because they use marijuana, and you have the right to contest your dismissal in the event of termination.
medical marijuana

Do Employers have to allow Employees to use Prescribed Medical Marijuana?

In both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, as well as a number of other states, employers are legally bound by new laws outlining the use of medical marijuana for patients. Although these laws require employers to allow their workers to use medical marijuana, they are only required to allow them to do so in certain circumstances. The way that many of these laws are written still allows companies to maintain policies that forbid the use of illicit drugs during company hours and on company property. As mentioned above, companies may also be able to successfully argue against keeping a medical marijuana employee if they can prove an inherent danger between their marijuana use and an aspect of their employment.

What do I do if my Employer objects to my Prescribed Marijuana use?

In most states where medical marijuana has been legalized, it is the duty of your employer to familiarize themselves with disability discrimination laws governing marijuana use and employment. In most states, it is unlawful for an employer to take any action against an employee using medical cannabis. In the event that your employer continues to object to your marijuana usage in spite of the law, an employment law attorney can help you address the issue.
prescribed marijuana

What are the Limitations on the Obligation to Make a Reasonable Accommodation for Medical Marijuana Use?

Current medical marijuana laws are still relatively new, and both employers and employees are trying to understand the scope of these new statutes and what is considered a reasonable accommodation. Although employers cannot punish you for having a medical marijuana prescription, it doesn’t mean employees are universally protected. For example, workers in hazardous environments who could expose their employers to severe liability if they were to injure themselves or someone else while under the influence of cannabis, may not be subject to reasonable accommodation. In the event that an employee’s use of medical marijuana prevents them from doing a key aspect of their job, the employer may have reason to claim that they cannot reasonably accommodate the employee.

What do Employers need to know about Medical Marijuana in the Workplace?

It is important for employers to familiarize themselves with the laws regarding medical marijuana in any state in which they operate. In this way, they can be prepared to react appropriately to an employee who informs them of their medical marijuana card.

Employers should educate themselves on the impact that marijuana usage can have on employees. Although employees are allowed medical cannabis usage off the clock, those coming into work under the influence are not protected. Some of the signs that an employee is under the influence include:

  • Problems with depth perception, reaction time, and motor skills
  • Sensory distortion
  • Decreased productivity
  • Increased callouts, job abandonment

Although state laws and the ADA both often protect medical marijuana users, federal law often supersedes state law. Inform yourself and your business of the laws in your area regarding medical cannabis use. Contact the disability discrimination lawyers at the Zeff Law Firm with questions about your specific situation.

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