Medical marijuana use is now permitted in 23 states, and Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia also permit recreational use. In a Pew Research Center survey conducted in March 2015, 53 percent of Americans said they believe marijuana should be legal, while 44 percent said it should be illegal.
But states that have relaxed marijuana laws haven’t provided much guidance on cannabis use as it relates to employment:
- Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, and Rhode Island are among the few states that have passed laws that protect medical marijuana patients from employment discrimination based on their pot use.
- Arizona and Delaware have laws that prevent employers from discriminating against registered medical marijuana patients, unless they use or possess marijuana or are under its influence during work hours.
- Colorado has statutes prohibiting employers from taking adverse action against employees for engaging in lawful activities outside of work.
Different Jurisdictions, Varying Laws
No state requires employers to permit employees to be under the influence of marijuana on the job, and if the employee is in a safety-sensitive position, many states have laid a relatively clear path for employers to follow. But employers with multistate operations must navigate a maze of different laws in different states.
In Arizona, an employee cannot be fired solely on the basis of a failed marijuana test. In California, if you fail a drug test, that constitutes legal grounds for termination. In Illinois, a medical marijuana state, employees are getting testing for drugs, coming up positive, and getting terminated, simply because they haven’t been certified to use medical marijuana yet, due to a backlog in the system.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. It is classified as a Schedule I drug, the most dangerous level, along with heroin, LSD, Ecstasy, meaning it currently has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.
Image courtesy of David Trawin/flickr.