Medical Cannabis Discrimination: Which States Prohibit?
Progressive medical cannabis laws have made great strides in recent years, but they have not always been accompanied by equivalent advances in the social and cultural arena. Despite a steady volume of research finding evidence for cannabis’s medical value, some Americans still hold on to the idea that cannabis is a dangerous and addictive drug.
It will take many years to reliably separate fact from fiction when it comes to medical cannabis use. The effects of “reefer madness” in the 1930s and anti-cannabis propaganda initiatives of the 1970s are still resonating throughout American culture today.
As a result of this social and cultural environment, there are many areas of inconsistency within the various cannabis laws of the 32 states that support medical cannabis. Employment discrimination has become one of the most serious issues under live debate in state legislatures as it is illegal to discriminate against qualified employees on the basis of a medical condition.
Medical Cannabis Employment Discrimination: A State-by-State Overview
As of June 2019, only a handful of states have taken a clear, unambiguous stance on cannabis use in the workplace. Most states are still subject to the haze provided by conflicting federal and state laws, differences in various state acts, and divergent judicial interpretations.
These inconsistencies make it difficult to accurately describe how individual employers will act. For instance, it is possible for medical cannabis users to test positive for cannabis despite being legal medical users, while Adderall users can get their tests certified negative for amphetamines simply by producing a prescription.
The latest information on each state’s position is outlined below. States without medical cannabis laws in place remain unlisted.
- Alaska. Alaska allows people to use medical cannabis but does not have any protective language or employment-related court rulings on the books.
- Arizona. Arizona’s medical cannabis laws feature specific language intended to help protect cannabis users from employment discrimination. Additionally, state judges have passed employee-friendly rulings in cases dealing with post-accident drug testing.
- Arkansas. Arkansas’ medical cannabis laws include protective language intended to prevent employers from discriminating against employees who use cannabis for medical reasons.
- California. California’s medical cannabis laws don’t include specific protective language, and the state has a history of pro-employer rulings. However, popular opinion among employers is changing to accommodate responsible cannabis use.
- Colorado. Colorado has a history of pro-employer rulings. Employers do not have to accommodate cannabis use either on-duty or off-duty and can terminate employees for using cannabis.
- Connecticut. Connecticut has robust laws protecting employees from workplace discrimination due to cannabis use and a history of pro-employee rulings to this effect. Employers may prohibit their employees from using cannabis during work hours.
- Delaware. Delaware also prohibits its employers from discriminating against cannabis users, with the stipulation that employers can take action against employees who use cannabis during work hours or on company property.
- Florida. Florida employers do not have to accommodate employees’ medical cannabis use, but legal precedence has not yet been established in the state.
- Georgia. Georgia employers may enforce zero-tolerance drug policies and terminate employees who test positive for cannabis use.
- Hawaii. Hawaii’s medical cannabis laws do not authorize use in the workplace or address employee discrimination.
- Illinois. Illinois passed laws similar to those in Connecticut and Delaware, protecting employees from discrimination while allowing employers to take action against employees who work under the influence of cannabis.
- Maine. Maine protects employees from discrimination for the medical use of cannabis, but it is far more lenient on protecting employers from accommodating recreational cannabis users at work.
- Massachusetts. While employers do not have to accommodate cannabis in the workplace, they cannot discriminate against medical consumption off-site. Massachusetts’ cannabis law is the result of pro-employee court rulings.
- Michigan. Michigan has a history of pro-employer court rulings concerning medical cannabis use on the job. Employers may fire employees who test positive for cannabis, even if the employee owns a valid medical cannabis card.
- Minnesota. Minnesota employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees based on their status as medical cannabis users, but they can take action against employees who use cannabis during work hours or on company property.
- Montana. Montana does not require employers to accommodate medical cannabis users. Employers can include provisions prohibiting employees from using medical cannabis in employment contracts.
- Nevada. Beginning in 2020, employers won’t be able to deny a job applicant for failing a cannabis screening test.
- New Hampshire. Employers do not have to accommodate medical cannabis use on company property and may discipline employees for using cannabis on the job.
- New Jersey. New Jersey does not require employers to accommodate medical cannabis use in the workplace and has a history of pro-employer court rulings.
- New Mexico. In New Mexico, employers can terminate employee contracts based on a positive drug test. The state has a history of pro-employer court rulings to this effect.
- New York. New York employers cannot discriminate against medical cannabis patients, but they also do not need to accommodate cannabis use on the job.
- North Dakota. Employers can discipline or terminate employees for using cannabis in the workplace or on company property in North Dakota.
- Ohio. Ohio employers do not have to accommodate medical cannabis use and can enforce zero-tolerance policies against medical cannabis users.
- Oregon. Employers may terminate employees for testing positive for cannabis, even if the employee owns a valid cannabis card. Oregon Employers have no restrictions when it comes to recreational cannabis use among employees.
- Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of cannabis use but allows them to discipline employees under the influence of cannabis at work.
- Rhode Island. Employers do not have to accommodate medical cannabis users in the workplace but cannot refuse to hire a person solely based on their status as a medical cannabis patient.
- Vermont. Vermont’s medical cannabis laws do not address employment discrimination. Employers aren’t required to accommodate recreational users.
- Washington. Washington employers may establish a drug-free workplace policy and refuse to hire applicants who test positive for cannabis use. The state’s recreational cannabis law does not mention employment discrimination.
- Washington, D.C. Employers may enforce workplace policies that restrict employees’ use of recreational cannabis. There is no law requiring employers to accommodate the use or possession of cannabis among employees.
- West Virginia. Employers may not discriminate against cannabis users, but they may discipline employees whose work falls below the normally accepted standard of care under the influence of cannabis.
While there is a great deal of uncertainty around employment discrimination for cannabis use throughout the United States, most communities are gradually moving towards more liberal policies to accommodate cannabis users. As time passes, even the most restrictive states are likely to pass protective legislation for cannabis users.
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