Legalized Medical Marijuana Use in Connecticut Could Impact Employers

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Connecticut SealGovernor Dannell Malloy recently signed Public Act 12-55 Concerning the Palliative Use of Marijuana.  This act requires the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) to start issuing patient registration certificates for the palliative use of marijuana starting on October 1, 2012 for qualifying Connecticut residents.  The Connecticut DPS has developed a Medical Marijuana Program FAQ section on their website for additional information. 

The act also directs the DCP to reclassify marijuana under state law from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II drug.   A Schedule I drug is considered to have a high potential for abuse and is not currently accepted/allowed for medical use, even when used safely under medical supervision.  A Schedule II drug is also considered to have a high potential for abuse, but also has safe and accepted medical uses in the United States. 

Employers should be aware that marijuana remains a Schedule I drug under the Federal Controlled Substances Act, as regulated by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).  Employers that operate under the Department of Transportation (DOT) guidelines within Code 49, Part 40 of the Federal Code of Regulations or other federal guidelines must continue to follow federal regulations for proper testing procedures and federal compliance.

Qualifications and Conditions for Use
To qualify under the act, a patient would need to be diagnosed by a physician as having one of the following debilitating conditions as described by the law:   Cancer, Glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Parkinson's Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, Epilepsy, Cachexia, Wasting Syndrome, Crohn's Disease, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Patients are also required to be at least 18 years old and be a resident of Connecticut.  An inmate confined in a correctional institution or facility under the supervision of the Department of Correction will not qualify, regardless of their medical condition.

How This Could Impact Employers
The law states specifically under Section 17 Subdivision (3) - “No employer may refuse to hire a person or may discharge, penalize or threaten an employee solely on the basis of such person's or employee's status as a qualifying patient or primary caregiver under sections 1 to 15, inclusive, of this act.”

Employers do have recourse under this new law as “Nothing in this subdivision shall restrict an employer's ability to prohibit the use of intoxicating substances during work hours or restrict an employer's ability to discipline an employee for being under the influence of intoxicating substances during work hours.”  In addition, the act provides several exceptions to its prohibitions, including when they are in conflict with an employer’s federal funding conditions.  Also, the act does not require health insurance coverage for palliative use of marijuana.

Further Considerations for Employers:

  1. Notify all employees that the use of medical marijuana is prohibited during work hours and disciplinary actions could be taken for employees who violate the policy.
  2. Work with your legal counsel on developing a policy as it relates to this new law and how it impacts current policies when dealing with positive marijuana test results for applicants and employees.
  3. Employers should update policies accordingly and train managers on these new guidelines along with notifying all applicants and employees of updated policies and procedures.

PLEASE NOTE:
Employers subject to these new provisions should contact their legal counsel for guidance immediately and revise their policies accordingly.  All information contained herein is provided by Employment Background Investigations solely for the convenience of its readers. EBI is not providing legal advice or counsel and nothing provided within should be deemed as legal guidance or advice.  Readers should consult with their own legal counsel to determine their legal responsibilities or if they have questions on any information provided by EBI.

State by State Medical Marijuana Resources
A good resource for current information on medical marijuana is ProCon.org.  This non-profit public charity provides a non-biased take on controversial issues with no government ties, and provides additional details on each state, including regulations and laws on the topic.

Employment Background Investigations (EBI) works with employers to customize drug testing programs that are compliant, comprehensive, and cost effective.  EBI offers a wide variety of options when it comes to drug and alcohol testing programs, including pre-employment, random, post-accident, and mobile collection options for both Regulated (DOT) and Non-regulated (Non-DOT) testing.  With our vast expertise and knowledge, EBI can either help you develop or enhance your drug testing program to meet your specific objectives.

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