A survey conducted by www.Yougov.com found that more than half of all Americans believe marijuana should be legal. In the January 15th survey, 52% percent of respondents under the age of 65 said marijuana should be legalized. In March of 2015 that number was 48%. Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Washington, D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana in some form, and 23 others have given the OK for the drug’s medical use.
While it seems there is only one place for this speeding freight train to stop… employers are still getting the support they need to keep weed out of the workplace. The latest support comes from a New Mexico federal district court. On January 7, 2016 the court decided that while patients could legally use marijuana for certain medical conditions, employers do not have to accommodate employee’s use of the drug.
In this particular case, an employee applied for a job with Tractor Supply Company. During his interview he disclosed that he had HIV/AIDS and that he used medical marijuana through the New Mexico’s Cannabis Program. He was hired, but promptly fired after testing positive for marijuana in the required company drug test.
In general, employers are protected by the fact that marijuana is still illegal under federal law. However, laws in Arizona, Connecticut and Delaware do require employers to offer reasonable accommodation to disabled employees who use medical marijuana. In the Tractor Supply case, the plaintiff claimed New Mexico’s Compassionate Use Act (CUA) forced employers to accommodate medical marijuana users. The employer, on the other hand, said the CUA only protected users from criminal prosecution, and pointed to the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) that makes marijuana illegal. The court decided that requiring the employer to allow the employee’s marijuana use would essentially be forcing the company to break federal law.
This is an argument that is going to be played out over and over in courts across the country, but for now, it seems employers continue to have federal law to fall back on. This is definitely a topic to discuss with your legal counsel. If you have run into this problem, we would love to hear your story. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.