Medical Marijuana Use – How Should Employers Handle It?

A recent court case in Massachusetts has brought to light medical marijuana use, and how it is handled both in the workplace and outside it. Obviously, this might vary from state to state, but he idea of medical marijuana use is a challenge regardless of what state you are in.

For the case in Massachusetts, in which an employee was allowed to go forward with a disability discrimination suit, it was made clear that employers don’t’ have to accommodate on-duty use or impairment, even if they are using it for medical purposes. In this particular instance, the employee was let go after the use of medical marijuana during her off work hours. The MA Supreme Court ruled that she could go forward with her disability discrimination claim due to the fact that it was deemed just as lawful to use as other medications.

When it becomes known that an employee uses medically prescribed marijuana, employers need to use a process of discerning the impact that usage has on their job capabilities. Does the marijuana use inhibit the ability of the employee to perform the job duties or pose a risk to themselves or others?

There are a couple of steps that can be taken to ensure both employers and employees are within their parameters when medical marijuana use is known.  First and foremost is to determine if there is a reasonable accommodation that can be made by the employer.  The next would be to determine if medical use is genuine, and come up with forms that are tailored to state laws which clearly outlines the parameter of such usage, which would include not using it during work hours or coming to work impaired.

Given the nature of legalized recreational marijuana and medical marijuana usage, it may be worth just dropping testing for marijuana altogether. In Colorado, many employers have done this in favor of keeping an eye out for on the job impairment so as to not jeopardize safety and performance of the user and others around them.