The majority of states now have some form of legalized medical marijuana. The fact that marijuana is now going to be prescribed by physicians raises a lot of questions for employers. If an applicant or employee has a prescription, should the marijuana be considered a medication? And should patients using it be protected?
You might be asking yourself, “What is the harm in that? Why shouldn’t medical marijuana users be treated the same as people with other disabilities?”
To answer that question, there are a few things you need to know about this new “wonder drug.”
Medical Marijuana Cut the Line
Medical marijuana is the ONLY drug on the market that has skipped all FDA testing and approval processes.
Pharmaceutical companies spend millions upon millions to be sure their products are safe and effective. Every other drug you buy - whether over-the-counter or by prescription – has gone through rigorous safety and quality testing. When you take a medication it is clearly labeled. You know exactly how much active ingredient it contains, and if you take the time to read the small print, you can even find out what fillers are used.
Appropriate dosing is also included in the instructions for every prescription or over-the-counter medication. This ensures the side effects of the medication do not outweigh the benefits.
Medical marijuana has no standard dosing instructions.
You Don't Know What You're Getting
Because of this lack of testing and production standards, every plant, every oil, and every edible could have a different amount of the active cannabinoids that seem to relieve disease symptoms.
In addition, the marijuana available today is very different from years ago. THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, is three times stronger today than 20-30 years ago. Conversely, cannabidiol (CBD), the non-intoxicating element that shows therapeutic and anti-psychotic value, has decreased almost at the same rate.
According to a study conducted by Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D. of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, only 17% of the packaged edibles he studied were accurately labeled.
A study by Dr. Joseph Tuscano of the University of California, Davis Cancer Center found that a majority of the medical marijuana samples he looked at were contaminated with dangerous bacteria and fungi.
Yes, part of the problem is that marijuana is still categorized as a Schedule I substance, which means there are so many restrictions that scientists have been unable to conduct rigorous research. But the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine looked at more than 10,000 studies that were conducted and found no solid, conclusive evidence that marijuana is safe to be used as a medication.
Employers Still Have Rights
While patients will now have the opportunity to try this experimental drug, it’s employers who will be the real lab rats. Ever since Nancy Reagan started telling kids to “Just Say No” to drugs, employers have been doing the same. Zero tolerance policies have become the norm. There are some cases working their way through the courts that seek to give the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to medical marijuana users, but nothing has changed as of yet.
It is essential for employers to know that, at least for now, marijuana is still illegal on the federal level. That means you are perfectly within your right to demand a drug-free workplace.