Substance Abuse

Employers’ Guide on Medical Marijuana Laws and Workplace Drug Testing

Early this week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and the McKee Law firm filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Pittsfield employee who was terminated from work because of her use of medical marijuana.

Brittany Thomas, 24, was allegedly fired by her employer, Adecco Group North America, after testing positive for marijuana use, Bangor Daily News reports.

A press release from ACLU said Thomas is a registered marijuana user. Prior to the drug test by Adecco, she informed a company representative that she would “fail” a drug test because she uses marijuana for severe back pain. When she tested positive for marijuana, she was told she would not be allowed to continue her employment with the company.

McKee said the lawsuit against Adecco is the first employment discrimination case filed in Maine over the use of medical marijuana.

To begin with, Maine is one of more than 15 states in the U.S. that has a medical marijuana law. But given the incident above, a few important questions arise: how exactly do medical marijuana laws apply in a workplace where drug testing is being enforced? what can employers do to avoid being sued by employees who legitimately use marijuana for debilitating diseases while still upholding the organization’s drug-free policy?

Of course, these aren’t easy questions considering the numerous, often conflicting, laws pertaining to marijuana use and possession. But it doesn’t mean there isn’t any solution at all. Here are some of the basic things to keep in mind as an employer:

1. Familiarize yourself with the medical marijuana law/s in your state.

2. Establish a pre-duty prescription medication and impairing effects substances safety policy.

3. Update employee job descriptions.

4. Adopt an ADA compliant handbook policy on reasonable accommodation.

5. Communicate to all employees in the organization your stance on medical and recreational marijuana use.

To read more on what every employer should know about medical marijuana and workplace drug testing, visit Medical Marijuana & Workplace Drug Testing: 5 Things to Know as an Employer.


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