Effects of Medical Marijuana laws on Working Professionals

Though marijuana is still an illegal drug under federal law, medical marijuana legalization has indeed benefitted many people those who are suffering from debilitating medical condition and are dependent on marijuana cannabis for treatment and relieving pain. For example, with the present Arizona Medical Marijuana laws, the qualifying patients can get themselves registered and take an identification card from the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS).

Though marijuana is still an illegal drug under federal law, medical marijuana legalization has indeed benefitted many people those who are suffering from debilitating medical condition and are dependent on marijuana cannabis for treatment and relieving pain. For example, with the present Arizona Medical Marijuana laws, the qualifying patients can get themselves registered and take an identification card from the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS). Though the cardholders can obtain permitted quantity of marijuana from registered MMJ dispensaries, they will be entitled for MMJ use as ‘qualified patients’ only upon diagnosis and written certification from a physician. However, cardholder can be a designated caregiver or an authorized non-profit medical marijuana dispensary agent apart from a qualified patient.

Patients using medical marijuana can be alleviated in certain medical conditions and experience improvement in their quality of life, but how far can they work towards pursuing a normal life, still remains a question among society dwellers. Medical marijuana laws protect patients from the partial behavior of the employers. It prevents employers to discriminate against cardholders and qualifying patients. They cannot differentiate them while appointing, for penalizing and terminating while employed. However, the law specifies two exceptions to anti-discrimination conditions. If hirers face the risk of losing money or licensing related benefit under federal law or regulations, they can be exempted. If a qualified patient uses marijuana in the company premises or during work hours or those tests positive for marijuana, employer is not under compulsion to continue to employ such patient. Employers may take action against such employees and refuse to consider accommodations that would allow or support illegal MMJ activity. Any task performed under the influence of this medication may constitute negligence or professional malpractice. Medical Marijuana laws prevent any patient, impaired by adequate amounts of marijuana components or metabolites, to do any potentially precarious work like operating motor vehicles or machines. Hence, employers must include clear information about its stand on medical marijuana in its drug and alcohol testing policy and address the issues related to use of medical marijuana in the workplace with extra care and valid legal advice. Employment drug testing is something which most workplaces endorse to ensure a clean and drug free workplace. Many employers do random testing throughout the year to keep the workplace drug free.

Another dilemma posing clause A.R.S. 36-2814(A) (3) of the law declares, “The registered qualifying patient shall not be considered to be under the influence of marijuana solely because of the presence of metabolites or components of marijuana that appear in insufficient concentration to cause impairment.” However, it does not clearly elaborate on ‘impairment’ or ‘under the influence’ condition. Merely the detection of marijuana metabolites in the system is not a sufficient cause as it can be detected in urine tests for several days and even several weeks.

Medical marijuana laws are just about the same in all U.S. states with slight variations, still it is important to understand that MMJ laws are inconsistent with federal law. It is advisable that employers consider state case law decisions besides medical marijuana state law while framing employer’s policy decision. They should inform their employees about its MMJ policies clearly in writingFeature Articles, even during hiring new people as well as their existing workers.

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