By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On June 16, 2014, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed SB 1030 (Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014) into law, making it legal for qualified Florida patients to take low-THC cannabis in liquid form. The specific medical marijuana is approved to treat certain medical conditions such as epilepsy, muscle spasms and cancer. Medical marijuana treatment may be available in Florida as soon as January 2015. Click here to read SB 1030.
A broader medical marijuana law, Amendment 2, will appear on Florida’s November ballot. If passed, Amendment 2 will legalize the growing, purchasing, possession and use of marijuana to treat medical conditions. Amendment 2 does not address how employers should treat employees who are qualified to use marijuana medically. The proposed law would not require employers to accommodate the on-site medical use of marijuana.
This discussion is one that needs to happen in the workplace. According to a Washington Post article, more than half of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. Currently, seventeen states plus Washington, D.C., have eliminated jail time for possession. In fact, medical marijuana is now legal in 23 states, plus the District of Columbia. Click here to read the entire Washington Post article.
Medical Marijuana Employment Laws Across the States.
In states that have already legalized medical marijuana, such as California, Montana, Washington and Oregon, the state supreme court has upheld an employer’s decision to terminate employees for their marijuana use outside the office. These individual courts held that medical marijuana laws only protect patients from criminal penalties and not from being fired by their employers.
It is slightly different in Colorado where marijuana is legal, regardless of medical use. Colorado’s state law prohibits the termination of employees for legal activities after work.
Florida’s current law and proposed Amendment 2 may also have effects on employee health insurance and workers’ compensation. New Mexico has a medical marijuana law similar to Amendment 2. A few weeks ago, an appellate court in New Mexico decided that marijuana is a medical expense covered under the state’s workers’ compensation system. The court required reimbursement to an employee for the cost of marijuana to treat chronic back pain caused by a workplace injury.
Tips for Creating a Workplace Medical Marijuana Policy.
Under federal law, the possession and use of any amount of marijuana is illegal. Federal law applies everywhere in the United States, including those states that permit recreational or medical use of marijuana. However, because of these new state laws, employees in states such as Colorado or Washington may think it’s perfectly acceptable to show up to work stoned.
Since it is most likely that marijuana will soon be available in Florida, it is in your best interest as an employer to revisit your company’s drug policies and procedures to include a section on marijuana.
Here are some things to consider when creating a marijuana policy:
1. Add consequences for the use of marijuana at work and shortly before work. Address the consequences of an employee showing up to work under the influence of marijuana. Be careful: certain states prohibit discharging, penalizing, or refusing to hire lawful medical marijuana users based upon a positive drug test for marijuana unless the employee used, possessed or was impaired by marijuana while on the employer’s premises or during work hours.
2. Don’t completely prohibit the use of marijuana at all times. In other words, don’t create a policy that prohibits employees from using marijuana when they are clocked out after work. Focus on regulating on-the-job conduct and employee performance.
3. Be sure to include marijuana in any drug-testing policy. However, keep in mind your state’s drug testing laws.
4. Make safety a priority. Your policies and procedures should ultimately center around workplace safety.
5. Be aware of how medical marijuana laws and employer actions may intertwine with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other non-discrimination laws.
Employers must balance their obligation to keep the workplace safe with the possibility of accommodating employees’ medical marijuana use.
What are your thoughts on Florida’s Amendment 2? How are you handling medical marijuana policies and procedures in your office or practice? Please leave any thoughtful comments below
Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.
The Health Law Firm represents health care professionals, providers and facilities ready to update company policies and procedures to comply with Florida’s medial marijuana laws. Our attorneys routinely represent pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.
To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Leiby, Richard. “The Lonely Lot of the Anti-pot Crusader.” The Washington Post. (July 25, 2015). From: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/the-lonely-lot-of-the-anti-pot-crusader/2014/07/22/7d0d490a-1036-11e4-8936-26932bcfd6ed_story.html
Huhman, Heather. “Why Your Company Needs an Up-to-Date Marijuana Policy.” Entrepreneur. (July 30, 2014). From: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/235999
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
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