Other Work Issues 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

  • If I am currently at work,and I need to leave work early to take paid sick pay,for true reasons for sick pay,can my job deny me sick pay,and can they give me a point for leaving work,not sure on this
  • Can my employer use my AZ Sick Time PLUS deduct the same time from my personally accrued PTO? For example, I've been out sick and exhausted the 40 hours of AZ Sick Time. At the same time, my Employer is also using 40 hours of my personal PTO for a total of 16 hours per day sick time instead of the 8 hours I'm out of the office sick. Is this Legal???
  • I quit my employer after 12 years employment. After i changed states I reapplied and was told that I was Blacked Balled from applying because of attendance. Is there anything i can do?
  • If a department head says you were not hired because they have closed the hiring process. However, there are still jobs posted on the website and the hiring department says there are still job openings. What can be done?
  • If I worked at a company for 2 years and they say they lost my file is it mandatory that I fill out another job application
  • can an employer hire a 17 year old as a sales person at a dealership? they do have a drivers license.
  • I am wanting to get my certified license to become a auto recovery specialist and need to know what felonies will stop me from getting certified or are the any that will stop me from getting it. And of there are felonies that will stop me how can I get it fixed to where I can get it
  • My company instituted a tobacco free workplace and we need to go off company property to smoke or vape. Now they are sending security telling us we cannot smoke in front of other businesses on public property and on public reserve land by putting up extreme fire danger signs year round. Can they enforce where we smoke or vape when off of company grounds?
  • My employer has not paid my child support in over a year. my employer said he has paid it but will not show me proof that it was paid. Child support has not received payment.
  • I am wondering if it is considered fraud for an employer to claim we would be interviewed via phone by an impartial party then turn around and hire someone outside the company without ever interviewing the internal applicants?

STORIES

LegalLEARN

FIND LEGAL HELP

  • Please select your county of residence below.

    County:
     

OTHER LEGAL RESOURCES

  • State Bar of Arizona
    www.azbar.org
  • Maricopa County Bar
    www.maricopabar.org
    Referral number 602-257-4434
  • Pima County Bar
    www.pimacountybar.org
    Referral number 520-623-4625
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline
    800-799-7233
  • Bankruptcy Court Self Help Center
    866-553-0893
  • Certified Legal Document Preparer Program
    Link

ORGANIZATIONS