By Dr. Craig Hauser, Kannavis Medical Director
As state laws and public opinion towards medical marijuana continues to evolve, employers and employees alike are understandably confused about its implications in the workplace.
For one, evolving state marijuana laws and policies tend to conflict with current federal laws that deems marijuana illegal. Essentially, the possession and use of marijuana remains a federal crime.
Now that the state of Maryland has sold its first batch of medical marijuana, you might be wondering how it will impact drug testing at work if you're a patient with a recommendation for medical cannabis.
Is your employer required to accommodate the use of medical marijuana? Are you stuck with opioid alternatives because of the possibility that the company you’re working for might fire you for using medical marijuana? Finally, can a potential employer refuse to hire you for testing positive for medical cannabis?
Let’s find out below!
Employment and Medical Cannabis in Maryland
First off, what does the law say?
Patients are allowed to receive a medical marijuana recommendation from a certified physician in Maryland. Furthermore, you can apply for a state-issued Maryland Medical Marijuana Card that allows you to freely purchase medical marijuana from dispensaries for certain qualified medical conditions. You can possess up to a 30-day supply of medical marijuana while licensed dispensaries in Maryland can distribute medical marijuana grown by a maximum of 15 licensed cultivators.
But here’s the caveat — legalization doesn’t equal job protection.
This isn’t just in Maryland, but also in other states where medical marijuana is legal. While the law can protect you from fines and criminal prosecution if you’re using medical marijuana, its impact on your company or employer’s ability to terminate or refuse to hire you is still unclear.
Medical marijuana is still considered illegal by federal laws. With federal controls overriding state laws, your employer is not required by law to accommodate medical marijuana use.
In the end, what happens to you if you test positive for medical marijuana in the workplace is up to your employer’s discretion. Some employers are fine with it as long as you’re doing your work well, while some industries are strict about medical marijuana use.
The transportation industry is a good example. A series of studies revealed that THC can negatively impact driving performance. For this reason, employers in the industry are likely to prohibit marijuana use. However, if medicinal cannabis doesn’t have a negative impact on the current nature of your work, employers should rethink their existing drug-free policies and provide a bit of leeway.
What it Means for Employers
On the other hand, this doesn’t mean that employers can just fire anyone who will test positive of cannabis. In some cases, it’s perfectly reasonable for an employee to continue working despite marijuana use.
A good example is when the Massachusetts’ high court ruled that a woman who had been fired for testing positive for cannabis (she had been legally prescribed marijuana under state law for Crohn's disease) could sue her former employer for handicap discrimination.
Ultimately, employers should evaluate their current drug policies, and make a serious effort in outlining specific medical cannabis use and policies that is by turns safe and respectful of employee rights. Maryland employers should stay tuned for updates regarding the changes being made to this law.