Medical Cannabis And Employment Problems
In our latest question and answer, the pharmacist discusses medical cannabis use and problems with employment.
I am going for my license to become CPhT and I am currently residing in California. I have found that the use of Medical (with the Medical card and everything) Marijuana is the ONLY medication that has helped me with my severe depression and panic disorders. Regarding that, I know it is a very gray area in the pharmacy whether or not it is allowed. With the proper documentation regarding the status of my health and how it is not just a thing i do, would it be possible for me to talk through and find work? I have tried many others things to help, natural and pill form for my panic disorders but to no avail. I am very close to getting my certificate and this is a field I would love to work in but this seems to be a very big issue I am running into and I hope I can get some kind of insight, Thank you.
While medical cannabis is legal in 29 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam, it remains a scheduled I substance federally. Although there is an increasing amount of evidence that cannabis can be beneficial for multiple conditions, and multiple large organizations support a change of drug schedule, the current classification makes it illegal for medical use. This can create complications in many areas, especially when it comes to employment and drug screenings.
Medical Marijuana Employment Laws
States that have medical cannabis laws typically have a section in regard to employment. Looking at New York State law specifically, the Compassionate Care Act states:
3369. Certified patients, designated caregivers, practitioners, registered organizations and the employees of registered organizations shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including but not limited to civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau, solely for the certified medical use or manufacture of marihuana, or for any other action or conduct in accordance with this title.
However, other states, such as California, have ruled that employees are not protected from repercussions of medical cannabis use.
A landmark case in California (Ross v. RagingWire Telecommunications), the California Supreme Court stated that an employer is within its rights to terminate an employee who uses using medical marijuana and employers not required to accommodate an employee’s medicinal marijuana use. This ruling most likely due to the federal law status of marijuana.
It is important to note, that even if state law prohibits medical cannabis discrimination, individuals may not be protected due to the federal illegality of cannabis use.
One source states the issue in regard to medical cannabis use and employment well:
"Thus, an individual who enjoys a protected status under one of the statutes listed below may, nevertheless, be excluded from disability laws as a result of their status as a current user of illegal drugs because marijuana remains an illegal drug under federal law. For this reason, the employer of such an employee may have no accommodation obligation under state or federal disability laws."
As every state has their own laws, it would be prudent to contact a lawyer, or the state directly to discuss how medical cannabis is handled in regard to employment. In addition, every employer will have different policies regarding medical cannabis use. Hopefully, they will have clear policies to help guide you.