Does Having A Medical Marijuana Card Protect You in the Workplace?

In Colorado, eleven years ago, an act was passed that legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Still today the rights that come with this card are unclear. Colorado is not the only state with this problem. Fifteen states now legalized medicinal marijuana.

Many cards are being issued to three main groups: Cancer patients undergoing treatment, AIDs victims, and people with chronic pain. This last category encompasses a large group of people which is still undefined. The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage or described in terms of such damage.” This means that although main is a very real symptom of a greater problem, there is no definite way to define it or determine how great or small it is. This group typically is the people either in the workforce or trying to get back in. But with the undefined guidelines given to employers, people are finding it is not as accepted in the workplace as one might think it is.

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According to Kenney, employers must be accommodating to an employee who has been issued a card for a medical condition. “Under the state and federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) employers may still have to consider accommodating an employee whose medical condition has led to a recommendation of medical marijuana use.” This is not to say that an employee with a medical condition and a prescription for marijuana from a doctor cant be fired for drug use. Employers have a loophole. Because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, employers can fire an employee under the basis that they would otherwise be supporting illegal activity by allowing an employee to continue working even though they are using an illegal substance under federal law.

“By affirming that the use of marijuana is illegal under federal law, employers can refuse to consider accommodations that would acknowledge or support illegal activity,” says Kenny. Well now he has contradicted himself because first he says employers have to accommodate their employees according to the ADA, then he says that federal law permits the employer to disregard the ADA. This sounds confusing right? Well it is and its why there is still so much controversy and confusion on this topic, because the government contradicts itself. Technically an employee can not be fired for a disability, which means they can not be fired for taking the legal medication prescribed to them. Federal law or not, medical marijuana has been made legal in our state and therefore the rules in the workplace need to be redefined and employers need to reevaluate their basis for termination.