Medicinal Marijuana Use and Employment

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Connecticut recently passed a bill that allows for the medical use of marijuana even though the drug is still illegal under federal law. The Americans with Disabilities Act, which protects employees with disabilities, does not protect employees who are medical marijuana users.  It excludes persons who are currently engaged in the illegal use of drugs. So what does this mean for the workplace? Connecticut is one of only seven states to provide protections to medical marijuana users in the workplace. To be clear, it is still illegal to be under the influence of the drug at work. Marijuana’s negative side effects, including a decrease of concentration, job performance, and overall safety in the workplace, can establish a legal basis to terminate an employee. However, state law maintains that a non-federally funded employer (federally-funded employers are still governed by the federal drug prohibitions) cannot refuse to hire, terminate, or penalize a person because they use medicinal marijuana during non-work hours. Herein lies the rub: since marijuana remains in a user’s blood stream well after the positive effects of the drug wear of, using the drug during off-hours could still mean that a user is “under the influence” the next time they go to work. This is a significant problem for employers who conduct random drug testing. Because the law is still evolving, we will not have clear answers to these discrepancies. Currently, Connecticut law states that employers may not presume that an employee, who is legally allowed to consume marijuana, was under the influence at work if their drug test result is positive for the drug. Employees should educate themselves as to the requirements, eligibilities, and conditions of Connecticut’s new medical marijuana law.

Posted May 8, 2014

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