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Exploring Cannabis and Employment Law

Many patients are surprised to learn that company rules surrounding the testing for cannabis at the workplace have changed in recent years. While some types of employment may forever be off-limits to medical marijuana patients, new options abound for those who may be in the market for a new job. 

 

Employers have a valid safety and financial interests in ensuring that employees are not coming to work intoxicated, but cannabis use off the clock results in a failed drug test as well. Typically, employers can require drug testing before employment and at random times.

The rapid changes in legalization have left employers in a precarious position. Many major employers maintain zero-tolerance policies on using drugs (including medical marijuana) in and outside the workplace. But some are changing.

 

Major Companies Have Changed Rules

Amazon: In June 2021, Amazon announced that it would exclude marijuana from their comprehensive pre-employment drug screening program for unregulated positions. They also reinstated the employment eligibility for former employees and applicants who were previously terminated or deferred during random or pre-employment marijuana screenings.

Caesars Entertainment: The casino chain stopped marijuana screening in 2018 for prospective employees. Richard Broome, the company’s executive vice president of communications and government relations said, “We believed we were losing too many otherwise qualified candidates.” 

Google, Chipotle, and Apple are among the list of other large companies that do not drug test its employees as of 2022. 

 

Jobs that Won’t Change Rules 

Federal Jobs: Even if it’s legal in your state, employees subject to federal regulations must refrain from using the substance or face consequences. As public acceptance of cannabis use has continued to increase, new guidance for federal agencies was issued in 2021. Still, the government reiterated that the mandates of Executive Order 12564, Drug-Free Federal Workplace, prohibiting the use of illegal drugs on or off duty, remain in effect for all federal employees. All military service members, postal service workers, Departments of Transportation and Labor employees, Politicians and legislative staff; and the FBI all qualify as federal employees. 

Jobs that require a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL): The US Department Of Transportation (DOT) explicitly does not allow the use of medical marijuana under state law (49 CFR Part 40). Commercial drivers can lose a CDL license no matter which state they are in if testing positive for cannabis. Every commercial driver, unless qualified as ‘Excepted’, is required to submit their valid Medical Examiner’s Certificate to DOT. You must meet the federal DOT medical certificate requirements to earn a CDL.

For some patients, it might be worth considering a job or career change if medical marijuana has become an important therapy. 

 

Legislation and Cases

Most states that have legalized medical marijuana leave testing up to employers’ discretion. Only a few states have policies that address anti-discrimination for medical cannabis patients. To find out more about  a particular state’s rules, check out this chart

New Jersey passed a bill at the end of the 2020 session prohibiting employer discrimination against individuals who are medical cannabis patients. Additionally, 2021 saw New Jersey pass A21. With this law, employer discrimination against medical cannabis users is further prohibited.  However, employers may still maintain drug-free workplaces at their discretion.

Pending legislation, including Indiana’s HB1026, Connecticut’s SB888, and Alabama’s SB46, also would prohibit employer discrimination against individuals who use medical marijuana, while also still maintaining employers’ ability to maintain drug-free work places. 

Also notable, a Pennsylvania state appeals court in a case of first impression ruled last August that the state’s law legalizing and regulating medical marijuana allows workers and job applicants to sue employers for discrimination. This backed similar decisions from judges in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware and Arizona. A panel agreed with a state judge that the plaintiff, a medical assistant who uses medical marijuana, could sue a hospital in Scranton for refusing to hire her after she failed a drug test. 

 

Addressing Employment Drug Testing

Medical marijuana patients sometimes ask about whether there are artificial ways that they can produce a negative THC result for an upcoming employment drug screening. While an array of products claim to clear the urine of the presence of THC, many of these products simply do not work and are ethically questionable. The only way to safely test negative for THC in a drug screening is to stop using cannabis products containing THC and wait for your system to clear. Heavy cannabis users will test negative about 21 days after stopping using THC. 

 

If getting a medical marijuana card is the right decision for you and your employment situation, reach out to Duber Medical to schedule a consultation appointment.

 

Author: Gabrielle Dion Visca

Gabrielle has been writing and editing professionally for the medical and wellness industries for more than 20 years. She’s held positions with The Journal of Pediatrics, Livestrong, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and Patient Pop. She currently writes articles about medical marijuana for Duber Medical, and is the founder of the Ohio cannabis journalism non-profit, MedicateOH.

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