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

  • How old do you have to be to work ?
  • Can my empolyer stop me from getting unemployment compinsation if I dont relocate and move out of state to work tor that company in another state? The company is closing down in this state. I can't relocate if rhey ask me to.
  • I work retail and the local union is calling for a strike. I'm not in the union, but I'm covered under the healthcare and the union rep is telling me I can be fined if I cross a picket line to work. Is this true?
  • can an employer hire a 17 year old as a sales person at a dealership? they do have a drivers license.
  • Can an employer require an employee to take anger management or behavior modification courses, or see a therapist.
  • Is being dyslectic considered to be a form of disability that an employer can help with by providing standards to follow rather than every employee doing the same jobs but calling each process different at will. It’s very confusing to me being a dyslectic. This company is very adamant about not providing standards as not to hamper individual creativity. I believe there should be some sort of middle ground that will help me quite a bit. I’ve been trying to make some changes without revealing my disability but in doing so, it appears I am, and am considered not so smart. I’m not sure what I should do. I’m feeling the pressure of some that I not so good at what I do and that’s not true. My job title is a Structural Designer II
  • Question-once a work schedule of an employee has been posted can the employer make changes to the schedule w/o consulting the employee, and if employee can not accommodate the change can the employer retaliate with disciplinary action.
  • I work in sales with commissions and might be changing jobs. Will I be due the commissions from my old job?
  • 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
  • I need to take medicine 3 times while at work, can they tell me i can't go to my car to take it

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