HMJ is following developments in Connecticut, where medical marijuana became legal last week. The Connecticut legislature’s bill spells out how the CN mmj system is supposed to work. Here’s an example analyzing the effects of such the bill on the workplace. Would the bill allow chronically ill individuals to smoke pot at their work stations? While other employees took a cigarette-smoking break out in the parking lot, could a qualifying employee take his own marijuana-smoking break? What if an employee smoked some marijuana a few hours before coming to work?
“Most employers have drug policies and drug-testing policies that prohibit the use of drugs on the premises of the employer, or while working. Many employers test prospective employees for drug use before offering a job. Other states have grappled with these issues after approving medical marijuana legislation. In Connecticut’s case, the General Assembly tried to answer these questions and others directly in the legislation.
Section 17 of Public Act 12-55 deals with the rights of employers and employees where medical marijuana use is involved. Under the act no employer can refuse to hire a person, nor can an employer discharge, penalize or threaten an employee, solely on the basis of the person’s status as a qualifying patient eligible to use medical marijuana. However, the law explicitly allows an employer to continue to prohibit the use of intoxicating substances during work hours. The law does not restrict an employer’s ability to discipline an employee for being under the influence of intoxicating substances during work hours.
So under the law, an employer can still prohibit the use of medical marijuana during work hours. However, an employer cannot disqualify an applicant from obtaining a job because the applicant tests positive for marijuana use, as long as the applicant qualifies for medical marijuana use. Likewise, an employer cannot fire or discipline an employee because the employee uses medical marijuana while off duty, as long as the use does not impair the employee’s ability to perform his job. Where an employee who uses medical marijuana has a qualifying disability under either the state or federal disability discrimination laws, an employer can face liability for discrimination on the basis of the employee’s disability if it tries to take action due to marijuana use.
As a general rule, where an employee qualifies under law to use medical marijuana, and as long as the employee does not use the marijuana on duty, or off-duty such that the use impairs job performance, an employer cannot take an adverse action against that employee. Some employers may not like the idea of employing a marijuana user. However, the law prohibits taking job action against an employee simply because the employer has a philosophical opposition to marijuana use. An employer who takes action against a medical marijuana user will do so at his peril.”
The devil is always in the details. We’ll be watching to see how this one grows up. Thanks to Eric Brown, an attorney from Waterbury, for this analysis. His original work offers more detail than mine.
[image: Google images Connecticut]
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