Working With Weed: How Legal Cannabis Fares in the Workplace.

Regardless of how legal cannabis may help workers with chronic pain, social anxiety, or numerous other struggles, even in states where cannabis is legal, workers still run the chance of getting fired for cannabis use.

Out of the 30 states that have joined the legalization of cannabis in some form, only 15 states have made legal protections for employees who use legal marijuana.

The 15 states who do not offer legal protections for cannabis users allow employers to drug test and fire those who may use outside of work.

Current Court Trends

Recently, courts have been lenient on medical cannabis users who test positive in the workplace. Specifically, Rhode Island and Massachusetts have recently ruled that after-hours use of medical cannabis will not result in a firing from a job.

However, this leaves recreational users in the dust. It seems like a hard line to draw that even though cannabis can now be used recreationally in the District of Columbia and 11 states just as alcohol, one can get you fired simply for testing positive for it.

Even though the legal and social world is rapidly changing in regards to cannabis use, groups, such as the National Safety Council, lobby to ensure that workplaces enforce a “zero-tolerance policy” of marijuana use.

Since this issue is so new, especially in the workplace, protections for workers in legalized states remains very limited. According to Michael C. Subit with the American Bar Association, only 9 states provide for explicit employment protection of off-duty cannabis users.

What should a legal cannabis user do to ensure they are protected in the workplace? 

There is no straight-line answer to protecting oneself from being fired or penalized at work for legal cannabis use.

As time continues with the acceptance of medical and recreational cannabis in society, more and more employers are likely to become less strict about drug testing and firings for positive tests. However, even if cannabis is legal in your state, there remains caution to use if you want to make sure you keep your job…..for now.

If a worker wants to secure an attorney, they can argue for anything from an American Disabilities Act grievance to a grievance or medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. 

However, non-legal protection includes simply hiding your cannabis use or finding an employer who is more cannabis friendly.

It is up to the discretion of the employer to punish the worker for their use, however, this is a true gamble.


5 thoughts on “Working With Weed: How Legal Cannabis Fares in the Workplace.”

  1. I can understand the concerns that certain employers might have with regards to their employees using cannabis. After all, I’m sure most could agree that we wouldn’t want a teacher to be teaching children while stoned. However, as more states begin to legalize marijuana there will be a higher demand and need for legal protections for legal cannabis users. Hopefully, we’ll begin to see some changes soon.

  2. This reminds me a lot of the passing of the bill that allows for medical marijuana procedures to be performed on the campuses of K-12 schools. It is important to protect medical marijuana users, as it is their preferred method of medical help. It should be allowed in the workplace if needed, but there should be regulations set in place to establish the difference between having marijuana in your system for recreational use or medical use to lower chances of abuse.

  3. Should the government step in here?

    To what degree? I see the ethical side of protecting a worker with a marijuana prescription, but should employers be barred from disallowing any type of marijuana consumption?

    There could be legitimate safety concerns in certain industries–on-call surgeons; police officers. Society has expectations for certain professionals even when their off duty.

    With the exception of duly prescribed substances, I think the marketplace should dictate what employers are allowed to expect from their employees as it relates to psychoactive drugs.

  4. Comparing marijuana and alcohol is an interesting parallel to keep in mind during these discussions. I believe that private companies should have some discriminatory power in how their employees spend their free time. But alcohol cannot be tested for like marijuana; there is a large gap between the amount of time each respectively spends in the system. Even if it were testable, employers do not fear alcohol and its potential dangers as much as marijuana’s. Though I believe that employers should not fire employees for what they do recreationally, I understand employer’s hesitancy behind protecting recreational marijuana use. There is not enough data.

  5. I can understand certain employers being opposed to their employees being under the influence of marijuana while on the job. Being under the influence would probably be dangerous for construction workers, bus drivers, and the like and employers don’t want this liability. How do we reconcile employers’ concerns with the rights given by the states to use marijuana? It seems difficult as there are two very strong competing interests.

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