Can Consuming Cannabis Affect Your Employment?

By Joan Eberhardt


Why Do Employers Drug Test in the First Place?

Employers drug test for all sorts of reasons. Drug testing in the workplace became more common in the Reagan era. To obtain certain lucrative federal contracts, some private employers may make passing a drug test a condition before hiring someone, but most employers who are not required to take a drug test will not. Many warehouse or manufacturing jobs may require drug testing as a condition of employment because in an environment where safety is a concern, those companies can receive discounts on workers compensation insurance, or avoid legal liability if employees are routinely screened for drugs or alcohol in the workforce. Transportation-related jobs, like truck driving, commercial boat operator or aircraft operations may be subject to drug and alcohol testing under federal regulations.

Can I Be Fired for Consuming Cannabis Legally?

The laws in each state are pretty different, but they have a few things in common. You still cannot legally come to work impaired. You can still legally be drug tested, and you can still be fired – or not hired – depending on the results of that drug test. Private employers, even in states where cannabis is legal for recreational or medical use, are still free to make hiring decisions exactly as they were before.

What Are the Legal Limits for Drug Testing?

There are exceptions for patients who use marijuana to manage their disabilities. Any employee taking medication to help manage their disability is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  

Companies also cannot discriminate against a particular group – for example only testing employees of certain races or disability levels. If an employer is going to perform drug testing, it can be all employees of a certain job classification – such as safety-sensitive positions – but the testing must be administered uniformly among employees.

What are my rights as a medical marijuana patient?

States with medical marijuana laws allow people to use marijuana legally to manage chronic illnesses, under a doctor’s supervision. Unfortunately, most states have not passed laws that protected those employees who use medical marijuana from employers who may not approve. California’s Supreme Court ruled medical marijuana laws primarily protected patients from criminal charges in that state, but do not extend to employer retribution. Colorado’s Supreme Court also ruled that an employer can still fire an employee for using marijuana while off-duty, even though it was legal in that state.

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