Although marijuana has been made legal for medicinal and recreational purposes in over half of the United States, these laws are nearly worthless to the average working class citizen. Because of conflicting state and federal policies, most of these statutes do absolutely nothing to protect the job security of the blue-collar worker in the event they are given a random drug test.
In fact, even in states like Colorado, where marijuana prohibition has been eliminated on a statewide level, employees who partake in the herb outside of the workplace still run the risk of being banished from gainful employment and left fighting for scraps in the unemployment line.
On the flipside, Uncle Sam has many employers in legal marijuana states dangling by the short-and-curlies, because even if these companies wanted to update their drug policies to no longer include cannabis, federal regulations simply will not allow it. Therefore, regardless of the legal status of marijuana, workers in the manufacturing industry or any other business that is required by the feds to test employees for the use of drugs are subject to termination for testing positive for pot.
Even medical marijuana patients are not completely safe from the wrath of random workplace drug screens. Courts in some states have ruled that it is discriminatory to terminate an employee who has been given permission by a doctor to use medical marijuana approved by the state.
“Arizona, Delaware, and Minnesota—statutes expressly prohibit employers from firing an employee for a positive marijuana drug test if that employee holds a valid marijuana card,” according to a recent article in Forbes.
Yet, in other states, like California, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, employers are permitted to implement zero-tolerance drug policies and can fire any worker who tests positive for weed, even if they hold a valid medical marijuana card. However, there is some speculation that these laws could evolve in time and provide more protection for the working medical marijuana patient. State supreme courts have not reviewed these laws in over five years.
There is also the conundrum surrounding disabled employees who use medical marijuana and if their rights are safeguarded under state law or the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. The problem is, no one seems to know for sure.
“The ADA and its state cognates require employers to provide reasonable accommodation for qualified employees with a disability,” according to Forbes. But this does not apply to the use of medical marijuana because the herb is still considered a Schedule I dangerous substance under federal law.
Unfortunately, as long as courts continue to gravitate to federal statutes to settle cases involving state marijuana laws, employers will be allowed to terminate workers based on pot positive drug screens. But with some state courts already forcing companies to respect state marijuana laws, it is just a matter of time before more follow suit – forcing those employers not under the thumb of the federal government to establish policies that differentiate between “intoxication” and “off-the-clock use.”
In the end, this confusion over weed in the workplace will continue as long as prohibition exists.