A workplace drug screening that showed cannabis use was consistently a fireable offense across the US until recent years. But with the rapid advancement of legislation at the state level permitting either medical or recreational cannabis use, the legal relationship between cannabis use and employment law has become much more confusing. There is now a mix of local, state, and federal laws that legislate cannabis use in very different ways. Workers are wondering does a medical marijuana card affect employment?
These conflicting laws can be especially confusing for medical marijuana users. Despite having a medical marijuana card and being legally permitted to purchase, possess and consume cannabis products to treat an approved health condition, that does not always mean employers will see cannabis consumption as permissible. So does a medical marijuana card affect employment status?
Federal Laws and Medical Marijuana
At the federal level, cannabis remains listed as a Schedule I controlled substance: meaning it is not considered to have any medical or therapeutic uses. Therefore, although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for qualified workers with disabilities—like those who need medical marijuana to treat a medical condition—the use and possession of cannabis, even medical marijuana, is technically illegal under federal laws. This means that employers are not legally mandated to accommodate cannabis use by employees who possess a valid medical marijuana card.
State Laws and Medical Marijuana
Although employers are not under any federal obligations to make reasonable accommodations for employees with medical marijuana cards, things are beginning to look different at the state level. Thirty-six states, along with the District of Columbia, have now legalized medical marijuana. With these conflicting laws, it can be difficult for both employees and employers to understand exactly how a medical marijuana card affects drug testing protocols and employment.
So can you be fired or passed up on job offers by being a medical marijuana user? Well, it depends on the laws of your home state, as well as the policies of specific employers.
State Medical Marijuana Protections
So far, 14 states where medical marijuana is legal (Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania) have introduced legislation to protect medical marijuana users from employment discrimination.
Maine and Nevada have taken their protections a step further: employers are prohibited from making employment decisions about workers based solely on their use of cannabis outside of the workplace, medical or otherwise.
Accommodations for medical marijuana cardholders are not a given in other states, even where medical marijuana has been legalized. In over 20 states, employers have no explicit responsibility to allow its use: they are bound only by federal laws, which give no accommodations to medical marijuana users. However, even in these states with no current protections, some employers have revised company policies on cannabis use in recent years. Many have ended zero-tolerance drug testing and have revised guidelines on off-duty cannabis use in line with state laws on medical or recreational cannabis and will work to accommodate medical marijuana patients on a case-by-case basis.
If you’re wondering how your medical marijuana card can impact your employment, it is important to take the time to understand your state’s current stance on medical marijuana protections, along with the policies of specific workplaces or positions. It is also important to remember that in any state, employers never have to accept cannabis use or impairment on the job, even if taken for medical purposes.
If you received your medical cannabis card through Heally, just remember your data is safe and secure through our HIPAA-compliant and encrypted platform. Employers cannot access this information.