Fired Article


Can an employer fire me for having a medical marijuana card?

As an attorney practicing in the nascent field of Medical Cannabis law, one of the most common questions I get from medical marijuana patients is whether they can be fired by their employer simply for having a Medical Marijuana Card.

The short answer is No.  The long answer is much more complicated.
Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act (the “AMMA”) is one of the most unique in the nation.  It was the first law to explicitly provide statutory protection against employment discrimination for one’s status as a MMJ cardholder.  The law states unambiguously:

B. Unless a failure to do so would cause an employer to lose a monetary or licensing related benefit under federal law or regulations, an employer may not discriminate against a person in hiring, termination or imposing any term or condition of employment or otherwise penalize a person based upon either:

1. The person's status as a cardholder.
2. A registered qualifying patient's positive drug test for marijuana components or metabolites, unless the patient used, possessed or was impaired by marijuana on the premises of the place of employment or during the hours of employment.

A.R.S. § 36-2813   

Sounds simple, employers can’t discriminate, right?  Well in practice it is much more difficult than that.  First the law exempts employers who would lose federal money or a federal license if they allow an employee to be a medical marijuana patient.  However, what exactly this means in practice is undetermined.  What about a long-term care facility that accepts Medicare dollars?  Further the Arizona legislature in 2011 passed House Bill 2541 which allowed employers to refuse to place any employee who uses medical marijuana in a safety sensitive position.  Safety-sensitive jobs are defined as "any job that requires duties or tasks that could affect the safety or health of the employee performing the task or others."  This broad definition can be interpreted wildly differently by various employers.  For example, it almost certainly covers a driver or crane operator, but what about a teacher or a pharmacist?  These are all issues that must be resolved over time by the courts.

However, event getting to court on these issues is a challenge in and of itself.  Generally speaking most employee drug screens happen after the job offer but before actual employment.  Combine this with AZ’s at-will employment status and it becomes extremely difficult to prove that someone was not hired because of the MMJ card (and not some other reason), and even more difficult to prove that they have incurred actual monetary damages that can be awarded by court.  More often than not the costs of pursuing these lawsuits are prohibitive based on the potential for monetary recovery.
However the threat of a lawsuit is often enough to get someone their job back so if you feel you have been discriminated against because you are an MMJ cardholder please reach out to a lawyer to discuss your rights.
  
Contributing Attorney Writer: Ryan Hurley is a partner, chair of Rose Law Group’s Medical Marijuana practice group and head of the Renewable Energy Policy and Research Department at Rose Law Group.

Comments:

QUESTIONS

  • After being fired from my job I began collecting unemployment. Now they are fighting it . They have not appeared for the phone hearing and now are re-appealing. How do I get help?
  • My former employer is verbally abusive on a daily basis and creates an extremely hostile workplace. After tolerating this for 6 months, I finally gave him my 2 week notice. He proceeded to say 'No, I'll end this right here' asked me for my key and walked me out. I then filed for unemployment, which has since been denied. I'm sure he said I quit, which is not the case. This person also made advances to my 16 ear old daughter when she was at work with me over the summer. Do I have a claim? I'm having a hard time getting a response from local attorney's.
  • can an employer fire you verbaly while on workmans comp and withhold the incident reports?
  • I left a job to work with another dentist for a better opportunity this dentist offer me what i was looking for plus training since I didnt know the program he works with.to my surprise his office manager never gave me training or allow me to use the computer all i did was sit there. after 2 weeks he waited 30min before i had to at work to call me and tell me it wasnt working. now i'm left with out a job what are my rights?? their is something I can do. I live in arizona. he even wanted me to leave my pervious job a week early to work for him and he did this. please give me a good advise
  • Can my boss fire me for not sighing a contract and if he does can I collect unemployment
  • After working at my job for 6+ months with no disciplinary issues, I was diagnosed with some health conditions. I brought a note from my doctor stating that provisions were to be made. Shorly after this I started being written up approximately every 2-3 weeks on a regular basis until it reached 3 write ups. The write ups were for health related incidents and for doing something "wrong" that I had previously been told to do it that way. I believe I was discriminated against and wrongfully terminated. I have no money and need legal advice desperately. Thanks
  • When I was terminated by my employer, i was given the option to voluntarily resign and get a good reference from them, or to be fired with no reference. In retrospect i believe that this was an attempt to preclude my being able to claim unemployment. Is it legal for an employer to present these as the only two options for an employee?
  • I was just fired for poor performance. I applied for UI benefits. Can they deny me?
  • The company I worked for had a no chase no confront policy. Can I be fired for defending myself after the suspect grabbed my wrist and threatened ?
  • If a co-worker has just come back from short-term leave; was diagnosed with Lymphoma Cancer, can the company still terminate her if she is not meeting the company's requirements or 'numbers' for the department

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