11.23.2016
policy

Here's Where You Won't Get Fired for Being a Medical Pot Patient

How legal is legal weed if it still gets you sacked?

This year, four states––Arizona, California, Massachusetts, and Nevada approved recreational weed laws. And four others: Florida, Arkansas, Montana, and North Dakota voted yes on medical marijuana legislation. Maine, which also had an adult use legalization initiative on its ballot, could see a recount reversing the electorate's approval, but normalization looks promising.

These second-wave additions to the Green Revolution tip the ratio of legal to non-legal states in favor of legal. In fact, 420-friendly laws have been enacted across the majority of the country—at 26 states and the District of Columbia.

Here’s the crazy part:  Despite the shift from prohibition toward normalized pot, language in all but 10 of those states' weed laws gives employers the power to terminate, or not hire, employees on the basis of workplace drug-tests reading positive for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

“Drug testing in our ‘land of the pee’ began with federal workplace safety laws, passed during the Reagan Administration by officials who afterward started Bensinger DuPont, a urine testing management company.”

According to Ellen Komp, deputy director for California NORML, the employment rights of cannabis users in legal states are worth fighting for.

“Prop. 19, which would have legalized marijuana in California in 2010, contained a provision protecting employment rights for cannabis users. That provision is seen as a reason the measure did not pass,” Komp tells KINDLAND in an email. “The authors of Prop. 64 went in the opposite direction, making it one of the purposes of the law to allow employers in California to continue to discriminate against workers who use marijuana.”

Komp, who has been a proponent for legal California cannabis since first joining NORML in 1991, believes the purity of body fluids is not something to be “examined” by an employer. 

“Drug testing in our ‘land of the pee’ began with federal workplace safety laws, passed during the Reagan Administration by officials who afterward started Bensinger DuPont, a urine testing management company,” Komp says.

In California, where legal-marijuana markets are expected to contribute to the sixth largest economy in the world––a result of Prop 64 passing––getting stoned before, after, or potentially even up to 30 days prior to showing up for work can get workers fired. In Colorado, where medical and recreational markets generated a $2.39 billion impact on the state economy in 2015 alone and created thousands of jobs spanning out from the weed world, the state's Supreme Court has upheld employers' power to fire employees over doctor recommended marijuana use.

“There’s a better alternative,” according to Komp. “Impairment testing, by which an employee takes a computerized test to gauge impairment for whatever reason (sleep deprivation, legal drugs, etc.).”

Forgetting for a moment about the dismal state of workers' weed rights in the vast majority of U.S. jurisdictions, read on for a list of states where being a medical marijuana patient is not grounds for immediate termination. 


Arizona

Even though critics see Arizona as going about its weed business mostly ass-backwards, the Grand Canyon State won’t take your kids away, or your jerb, if you smoke herb. 


Connecticut

Filing a Freedom of Information Act request in Connecticut won’t get you a list of which rich white dudes own dispensaries, but at least you won’t get kicked out your home for smoking weed.


Delaware

If you’re a minor and a medical marijuana patient, and you’ve been diagnosed with a qualifying condition––a registered caregiver can administer medical marijuana oil to you, providing that registered caregiver is not also the school nurse, and you won't be banished from Delaware's educational system.


Illinois

Illinois may be slow to get things cooking with its medical cannabis pilot program, but at least mmj patients can stay medicated and employed at the same time.


Maine

Maine is the indecisive n00b when it comes to enacting recreational adult use. But at least the state's mmj patients can keep their children, according to Title 22, so long as parents don’t get their kids second, or first-hand high.


Minnesota

As long as you don’t blaze up at work, or in the parking garage outside of your work, or the bathroom at your place of employment, or perhaps with your boss/intern/cubicle-mate/ice-fishing squad––you can’t get fired from a Minnesota job for testing positive for THC.


Nevada

In Nevada, you can consume all of the medical cannabis your ailing heart desires and requires––Rio buffet style, baby!––and you’re chill. Hell, you can be a cop in Nevada, “who is acting in his or her professional or occupational capacity for such an agency,” (RE: doing weed things) and you’d still get to keep your job.


New York

New Yorkers get right to the point: Being a medical marijuana patient who performs well at work but tests positive for THC won’t cost you your job, or apartment. The tradeoff is: Becoming a mmj patient in New York is kind of an arduous process. And the authors of Bill No. A6357E, which protects employment rights for the marijuana medicated demographic, still spell weed, “marihuana”; so, there’s that.


Pennsylvania

From Pennsylvania’s Act 16:

“A patient may not perform any employment duties at heights or in confined spaces, including, but not limited to, mining while under the influence of medical marijuana.”

Shout out to all of the fine people working on telephone poles, or in the coal mines of Pennsylvania––sorry you can’t technically consume medical marijuana before work. But you can indeed medicate afterward, and still keep your job—so long as you don’t treat your symptoms to the extent that a psychoactive high carries over into the next day’s labor.


Rhode Island

Rhode Island’s Title 21 protects the employment and housing rights of medical marijuana patients, and bans employers and landlords from discriminating or denying anyone simply because of their cardholder status. Now that is American. 

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