How Some States Are Handling Medicinal Cannabis Use In the Workplace
New Hampshire sided with the workers.
Cannabis use in the workplace is a complex issue with many layers. While some states may have cannabis programs in place, workplace laws are a different thing entirely. In a recent case, New Hampshire voted in favor of a plaintiff, who sued a company that fired him for his medical cannabis use.
The plaintiff, Scott Paine, used cannabis as prescription medication for his PTSD. Paine worked at Ride-Away, and had to be tested for drugs regularly. He requested an exemption of drug tests when off-duty, never asking to consume cannabis on the job. Ride-Away denied Paine’s request and terminated his employment.
Paine sued the company, claiming that they failed to accommodate the treatment of his disability. Ride-Away claimed that they didn’t need to accommodate his treatment since cannabis remains a controlled substance. Surprisingly, the court disagreed with Ride-Away; they said that while illegal drug use is not a protected disability, the law does not prevent the treatment of conditions with cannabis.
Why this matters outside of NH
New Hampshire’s decision is a small step, yet a significant one, setting precedent for medicinal cannabis and its use in the work place.
While it doesn’t argue that people can smoke on the job, it supports cannabis’ standing as medicine and will likely be used as reference for a variety of workers who use therapeutic cannabis while off duty and have found themselves in trouble at their jobs. It also puts an emphasis on a case by case review when it comes to situations that involve medicinal cannabis use.
While Paine’s case is a good step forward, it still doesn’t provide any clarification for medical cannabis and drug testing in the work place, which doesn’t mean that someone is using cannabis while on the job.
Workplace policies still take precedence
Despite the fact that cannabis is earning legal status in a variety of states, employers can still stick to their personal drug policies, terminating employees if they consider their cannabis use inappropriate.
Even in legal states, cannabis remains a federally illegal drug, meaning that drug use in the work place is a risk, no matter which way you look at it. A medical marijuana card may provide some protection and leeway, but courts will approach each case on an individual basis.