Mastering the Legalities of Medical Marijuana

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Medical-marijuana laws present employers with a unique dilemma regarding how they handle employees or applicants who test positive for illegal drug use as compared to how they handle persons who test positive for prescribed painkillers or other drugs. Given the status of medical marijuana, employers in various industries who conduct drug and alcohol tests may need to re-evaluate their drug policies. They should consider how they deal with employees and applicants who test positive for marijuana versus other illegal drugs and legally prescribed medications.

Status of Medical Marijuana Laws

Fourteen states (and the District of Columbia) have medical marijuana laws allowing patients to use marijuana for medical reasons. Those states are: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

State medical marijuana laws cannot completely legalize marijuana because the drug remains illegal under federal law regardless of the reasons for its use. However, because almost every state has some form of disability antidiscrimination law protecting employees at work, which includes the employer's duty to reasonably accommodate, employers need to know if medical marijuana must be treated the same as a prescription for a painkiller.

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