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It’s Time to Protect Workers Who Use Marijuana

It’s Time to Protect Workers Who Use Marijuana
Photo Gracie Malley for Cannabis Now


It’s Time to Protect Workers Who Use Marijuana

New Mexico legislation pushes for worker protections around cannabis consumption.

Although medical marijuana is now legal in more than 30 states, employees who participate in these programs are not exactly given the freedom to use the herb for their respective health condition without the risk of consequence. One of the biggest concerns is registered medical marijuana users can actually be fired from their jobs for simply going along with a policy that the state considerers perfectly legal. It’s a problem that mostly exists because there is not yet an effective drug testing method out there that distinguishes between impairment and after hours use. Some lawmakers have taken notice of this hiccup of injustice and they’re using the 2019 legislative session to correct it. Others are even working to ensure it is never an issue, to begin with.

In New Mexico, a push to legalize recreational marijuana could include protections for workers that smoke weed off the clock – regardless of whether that use is for medical or recreational purposes. The legislation is designed to make it unlawful for a company to lay down the fury against an employee based on a positive drug screen for marijuana. It would also prevent employers from taking action against their workers based on after-hours conduct deemed legal by the state. In fact, the only way a business could build a case against an employee who uses marijuana is if they could demonstrate “by a preponderance of evidence that an employee’s lawful use of cannabis has impaired the ability to perform the employee’s job.” So, as long as a person’s work performance is up to speed, their marijuana consumption could not be grounds for suspension or termination.

This is an important next step in the discussion over marijuana legalization. As it stands, federal and state judges in many cases have ruled that medical marijuana patients are not under any shield from policies associated with a drug-free workplace. This is especially true when it comes to recreational marijuana, yet the medical side has been no exception.

“There are no protections right now in New Mexico for workers who use medical marijuana legally,” Albuquerque attorney Jason Bowles told the Albuquerque Journal.

Farther east, it’s the same situation.

Although Massachusetts made marijuana fully legal a couple of years ago, workers there can still be fired if a company requires random drug testing as part of its employment policy. However, lawmakers recently filed a measure intended to combat this unsavory condition. The gist of the proposal is very similar to what is being discussed in New Mexico. It would protect employees from termination for simply testing positive for weed. The measure forces companies to dig up more evidence – making it necessary for them to prove the worker was impaired on the job before taking any disciplinary action.

Meanwhile, some states are making a push in 2019 to confuddle this debate even more. While some lawmakers are working to give marijuana users more rights when it comes to holding down gainful employment, others are fighting to make cannabis consumption nearly impossible for workers in certain positions. In Oregon, a redrafted proposal from 2017 wouldn’t allow pot consumption for those under collective bargaining agreements, nor would it provide clearance if a “bona fide occupational qualification” is necessary to do a job.

Most companies are just so worried about employees working impaired that it has been difficult for lawmakers to come to any sort of agreement on how to handle the issue. “Of the number of executives we have interviewed on the topic of labor, their main concern is impairment while working,” Beau Whitney, a senior economist with New Frontier Data, told the Salem Statesman Journal.

Even in Canada, where marijuana is completely legal nationwide, the manufacturing trade is pressuring lawmakers to give them the right to fire workers who test positive for marijuana. This sector is hoping the government will impose a zero-tolerance policy on cannabis use for the 1.7 million workers in the manufacturing trade. In their mind, it’s all about safety – the same as mandatory use of protective eyewear. “I think for any heavy industrial machinery where lives are at risk, I think zero tolerance is the only option,” said Jonathon Azzopardi, chairman of the Canadian Association of Mold Makers. “We have to wear safety glasses when we’re on the shop floor. Both parties are punished, and there’s a zero-tolerance level for not wearing safety glasses.”

Companies in some legal states, however, are starting to relax their policies on drug testing just to fill positions, according to experts. “Employers are starting to adjust pre-employment drug screens, particularly in legal states, so that they have access to more workers. So the market is starting to adjust on its own,” Whitney said.

Nevertheless, marijuana users will likely continue to be discriminated against in the workplace until one of two things happen: Either a drug test emerges that is effective at gauging impairment – something that is needed on so many levels – or the federal government legalizes marijuana nationwide. Only then, will cannabis start to be viewed as a substance similar to alcohol and given some leniency in the workplace.

TELL US, have you ever been denied employment due to a failed drug test for cannabis?



  1. Shelle Timmer

    February 8, 2019 at 9:27 am

    I am in this predicament right now. I have a job in retail with a nationwide chain…I am a good worker they want me to move up the chain but I have to test clean in order to do that. Inspite of having a medical card… I do NOT smoke cannabis as I am a SEVERE asthmatic. I consume edibles in VERY small doses which are effective for treating the other chronic conditions I deal with. I have back and neck pain with nerve improvements, I have fibro and PTSD from childhood trauma and adult incidents as well. I have trouble sleeping and eating. I tried pharma drugs, they left me depressed, and unfunctional to the point I couldn’t take care of myself or my husband we ended up homeless. I have used medical cannabis edibles for over a year, I have been able to hold down a fulltime job and enjoy many fun filled productive days outside of work. Unfortunately, I had to leave that job due to other circumstances. I am now prescribed narcotics, benzos, and muscle relaxers as my current employer does not honor my medical card. My quality of life is dropping drastically as I am trying to “pee clean” for this new job and wont use the prescribed drugs as they make it so I cant work. Pain, anxiety, and depression are now part of my everyday reality again instead of breakthrough occurances. Once again, the system is broke and my family and I are paying a heavy price.

  2. Liliana

    February 7, 2019 at 10:11 pm

    I didn’t get fire but my daughter went through a job interview as medical assistant in Wisconsin, job offer given and when results came positive for pot the job was withdrawn even though she told them in the interview that she used at night off work for medical reasons, went through a day of training and when results arrived days later she was told no can do:(

    • Marianne

      February 10, 2019 at 12:27 am

      Kroger did the same thing to me I did 4 days of training I took 4-5 different tests all like 100 questions each one. One was health cleanliness stuff one was about food prep one was about math and the other I believe was about safety and stuff and I passed them all first try no problem so I got the go ahead to continue on the whirring process, cause I applied to be a cake decorator with 3 previous years experience with Safeway and about 10 self taught at home decorating, I also paint so I’ve always been quite crafty and talented when it comes to the art anything. Anyway I was super pumped for these training they did some stupid drug test that was mailed off somewhere it was late coming back and during that waiting process I got hired before it came back almost 2 weeks later I’m at work it’s like my 6th or 7th day now in the bakery it’s going great and then I get a manager walks up in to the bakery one day says I need to speak to you privately, and I’m like thinking why I never did anything wrong at any job I’ve ever had. So he says we have to let you go your background came back red flagged and I’m like no my records clean they said I don’t but we can’t have you on the sales floor at this time they said clear your locker hand in your keycard and leave out the normal exit not the employees. I’ve never been fired from a job before nd im sure it was the drug test! The only drug ive ever used is marijuana in my whole life I also use for medical reasons I’ve had debilitating artharatis diagnosed at around 17 yrs. Old always had joint and bone pain its in my feet my hands my knees my neck and shoulders and now its taking over my spine. I will end up in a wheelchair one day I hoped to have a retirement plan in process but I dont know what will become of my old age like so many others out there. now that im 37 its become increasingly worse last 3 years or so. Arthritis is not recognized under social security standards until you reach the age of 55 so what does one do if it’s not recognized under employment after hours standards either after hours with many jobs over the years never had a problem ever until recently due to insurance purposes it’s bullshit . Ive had a great many jobs one lasted 10 years. But I’m older now and not getting younger I try and keep up but it’s hard I’m in pain all the time it never goes away but medical marijuana has really helped with mobility and it’s enough to take the edge off at night. But in order to make money I have to give up the only thing that helps. Its not something i can give up and i shouldnt have to i’s not fair and it needs to stop I should be on my way to a retirement plan but it was stolen from me over something I need. Some people are only given one talent and ability in life for me it was cake decorating but my hands only have so many years left in them before they start to curl up and wither away and I feel robbed of my dream my talent my efforts im out of time and youth to learn a new trade and there are many out there suffering with this too. This needs to change!

  3. C C

    February 7, 2019 at 12:11 pm

    I’ve been fired due to failed drug screen for cannabis. It was before medical was legal so I don’t judge against it, but I’d sure be bitter being fired for it now even though I have physician prescribed card.

  4. Jaime brockdorfd

    January 12, 2019 at 9:51 am

    I have been working in retail for a long time. Never have I ever smoked at work or impaired at work. I smoke before bed, I have severe insomnia and anxiety due to my renal failure. I smoke before bed to sleep and after dialysis for nausea and anxiety. I am a hard worker and have always given 110% at work. I was denied jobs before due to drug test failure, even tho I hadn’t smoked within three days of a drug test. Seems unfair to me

  5. Pam

    January 12, 2019 at 4:57 am

    I was escorted out of the hospital like a criminal for having + UDS for marijuana in 2004 and lost my RN liscense. Never smoked before work or was high there. I have fibromyalgia depression and anxiety.

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