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Employers in Legal States Harsher on Pot Use Than in Medical States

As we continue re-legalizing cannabis across America, we will have many battles to fight before we reach true cannabis freedom and equality with beer drinkers and cigar smokers.

No battle is more important to me than securing the right of cannabis consumers to gainful employment. Now comes some data showing legalizing marijuana may be making employment more difficult for cannabis consumers—especially medical marijuana patients.

The Society for Human Resources Management released a survey of 623 HR professionals in the 19 states with medical marijuana and the 4 states (and DC) with both medical and adult-use marijuana legalization. It found some disturbing trends:

Legalization States Are More Restrictive.

Almost 3-out-of-4 (73 percent) of the employers in the medical-only states do not permit marijuana use at work for any reason. That increases to over 4-out-of-5 employers (82 percent) who disallow marijuana in the legal states and DC.

Legalization States Have Half the Medical Exceptions.

In medical-only states, 2-out-of-9 employers (22 percent) have exceptions for use by patients who are employees. That drops to 1-out-of-9 (11 percent) employers in legal states and DC.

Legalization States Are Almost Twice As Likely to Change Workplace Drug Policies.

While most employers said they haven’t modified their drug policies, almost twice as many employers in legal states (29 percent) changed their policies when the law changed than employers in medical-only states (16 percent).

When Policies Changed, They Were More Likely Made More Restrictive.

Of the employers that changed drug policies when the laws changed, over three times as many (37 percent) made them more restrictive rather than less restrictive (12 percent).

It’s important to note that in three of five of those legal states and DC (Oregon, Washington, Colorado), their Supreme Courts have ruled that medical marijuana patients do not have any employment protection. That’s only the case in two of 19 (California, Michigan) of the medical-only states.

Those rulings might mean employers in those states are emboldened to ratchet down workplace drug policies more tightly, thus tilting the statistics in the legal states in a way that has nothing to do with the fact they legalized marijuana for all adults.

Regardless of why and how, the survey shows that in almost a third (32 percent) of the employers in the medical-only states and almost 2-out-of-5 (38 percent) of the employers in the legal states will not hire marijuana consumers.

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