By Drew M. Smith
Marijuana has become a divisive subject both socially and in the workplace. Many states have medical exemptions related to its use. Some states, like Colorado and Washington, allow for commercial sales of this FDA Class 1 drug. In states that allow medical marijuana, the users are treated under the law similar to someone with a disability.
Many companies have a drug testing policy. In simple terms, you can’t work while you have drugs or alcohol in your system. These drug tests can be randomly administered and can be given at any time as outlined in the respective contracts or employee manual. In order to get around this drug test, the employee must provide a valid doctor’s note outlining why the person is taking the drug and ask if they make exception for them.
What is not allowed is the denial of a job over the fact that they used medical marijuana legally in the state of employment. In Rhode Island, an applicant sued their potential employer under the state’s Hawkins-Slater Act; the medical marijuana law. They applied for a paid internship and outlined in their job application was the disclosure they were taking a drug and would not pass the pre-employment drug test. The company rules stated they couldn’t use it on the campus of the business. When the applicant was denied employment, the company was sued on the grounds they were denied employment based on the applicants marijuana card.
The judge agreed that not only was the company in the wrong not hiring them due to the card, they also threw out the argument that the person was not hirable due to the inability to pass a drug test. They also rejected the argument that the company had no right to accommodate a person due to being a medical marijuana user under the ADA.1
In many states, people have access to marijuana legally. Taking them across state lines is what most employers fear with the increasing access to the drug. Be sure to update your drug policy to accommodate people with medical marijuana cards. Take heed of those who are using this drug to make sure they understand where they can and can’t use it and accommodate as needed as requested by law.