[author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor]
Connecticut will become the 17th state to legalize the use of medical marijuana with a new law that is set to take effect on October 1, 2012.
But the Constitution State stands apart in one notable respect.
That's because this law specifically bans employers from refusing to hire a job applicant or discharging an employee solely on the basis of that person's status as a "qualifying patient." Connecticut's new measure also extends protections to "primary caregivers" who are managing the care of the qualifying medical marijuana patient.
In most other states with medical marijuana laws, including leading pro-employee rights states like California and Oregon, courts have held that employers need not hire a job applicant who tests positive for medical marijuana.
And earlier this year, the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that since federal law does not authorize medical marijuana use, such use is not protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. See James v. City of Costa Mesa, No. 10-55769 (9th Cir. 2012).
It remains to be seen how Connecticut courts will reconcile the federal ban with Connecticut's medical marijuana law. In addition, Connecticut employers should note that they are still free to discipline employees for being under the influence of drugs, including medical marijuana, during work hours.