With CBD oil gaining traction in the U.S., and marijuana for medical use being legal in around half the states, there is still a lot of confusion around the legalities of weed and the workplace; with both employees and employers being unsure of where to turn to for solid guidance. It comes as no surprise that as more states choose to legalize medical marijuana, there is growing confusion around the DO’s and DO NOT’s of being a medical marijuana patient and having a job.
Especially, when not only do you have to take into consideration federal laws around marijuana, but also the fact that each state has its own outlook on the topic, and then on top of that we also have to factor in that every employer is different!
So, for those who are part of a medical marijuana program, and have legally been prescribed cannabis as a medicine, or those that are considering medical marijuana, here you’ll find answers to some of those frequently asked questions:
- Can you still work if you are a medical marijuana patient?
- What happens if you are asked to complete a drug test for work?
- And what do you do if you FAIL a drug test due to medical marijuana?
In addition, we have put together an all you need to know guide about drug testing in the workplace, and what you can do to help yourself, whether you have failed a drugs test or have one coming up. Basically, everything you need to know is right here!
What Is a Drug Test, And Why Are They Conducted?
A drug test can come in a few different forms, from testing saliva to a urine sample, or blood test. And to make things extra complicated, each state holds its laws around what sort of testing is appropriate and for which situations!
An employer might want to carry out a drug test for a multitude of reasons; As part of company policy, for legal purposes, as part of a pre-employment process, for health and safety, or even due to reasonable suspicions. It is the responsibility of every employer to ensure the workplace is safe for all employees, which is the number one driver behind many workplace drug tests. This is mostly due to the overwhelming belief that cannabis use leads to significant risk in the workplace, whether it be due to a lack of concentration, impaired abilities, or just lack of willing!
Of course, there are some job roles which require a drug test before employment and regularly throughout your time working there. This type of work often involves the operation or driving of vehicles including (but not limited to) cars, trucks, heavy machinery, trains, and planes.
What Are the Laws Around Drug Testing in The Workplace?
This is where things can become confusing, as while most states have legalized cannabis for medical use at least, marijuana is still classed as an illegal substance under federal law. In short, this means that no matter what standpoint your state takes on medical marijuana, if your employer is under federal control, then your medical marijuana card could stand for nothing.
We understand that the idea of being legally prescribed marijuana, only to be told that you could run the risk of being fired if you use it is very concerning! However, don’t despair – there are steps you can take to be as informed and prepared as possible! (we will get to those a little later!)
The things you need to know:
- In every state where medical marijuana is legal, you are required to get a written recommendation from a qualified physician if you want to stand a chance at getting a medical marijuana card!
- To get a card, you must have a ‘qualifying condition‘.
- Under state law (where the law states the use of medical marijuana is legal) you cannot get prosecuted for the use of medical marijuana in cases where you meet the criteria.
- ALWAYS check, and DOUBLE CHECK your state’s laws around this – as laws and criteria differ from state to state!
As we have mentioned throughout this guide, each state holds different laws around the topic of drug testing! So, for that reason, it would be difficult for us to give you a specific guide. However, what we can do is provide you with the core information so that you are as well-equipped as possible! So, with this in mind, below is a list of the main factors to consider concerning the laws around drug testing at work:
- The first and perhaps most obvious thing to do would be to check your states law on medical marijuana. If you think it is legal, check again anyway to avoid any issues later down the line!
- Bear in mind that in the majority of states employers CAN legally dismiss you from the workplace if your drug test has come back positive. However, some states prohibit the dismissal of an employee purely based on their use of a medical marijuana card – so make sure you check this out for your state!
- If you live in a state which has legalized medical marijuana, your employer still has the right to fire you for failing a drugs test, UNLESS your state law explicitly states that an employer cannot fire a medical marijuana patient for using the drug off premises.
- If you are lucky enough to have an employer who accommodates for your condition, bear in mind that certain states allow only certain types of medical marijuana to be used.
- The laws around when a drug test is performed, how regularly and what method of testing differs from state to state. So, ensure you check your state’s laws around this, but know that all tests must be justified and fair.
What You Can Do If You Fail A Drug Test
Even the most clued up marijuana patient can easily be caught out by the confusing laws around the subject of drug testing! So, if you find yourself in a position where you have failed a drug test, and you are unsure what the next step should be, then keep on reading.
As we keep mentioning and will continue to do so – check your state’s laws! We cannot stress enough the importance of this, as more often than not the answer to your question will lay in their legal guidelines. If you have failed a drug test due to medical marijuana here are some things you can do:
- The first thing to note is that you will not face criminal charges for failing a drug test for medical marijuana if you live in a state where medical marijuana is legal!
- If you have failed a drug test at work, you have the right to contest your employer’s decision to fire you. In most states, your employer is required to provide you with a copy of your drug test results, at this time you can challenge these results by way of retest or explanation. Depending on how valuable you are to the company and your explanation, your employer may look aside.
- For the most part, states will have laws laid out for employers to follow in the case where an employee has failed a drugs test. It is an employer’s responsibility to make themselves aware of the law for their state. As an employee, you can discuss this with your employer. There may be additional steps employers must follow for current employees. For example, in certain states, an employer can’t fire someone for the first failed drug test if the employee agrees to complete a rehabilitation program.
- In some states, there are very strict time frames in place by which an employer must declare a positive test result to you, the employee. So, if you have failed your drug test, ensure you check that your employer has followed the correct timeframe. You can contest the results if they have not followed their duties correctly and exceeded notifying you during the general timeframe.
- Some state laws provide employment protections, meaning that if you live in states such as Rhode Island or Massachusetts, your employer is unable to dismiss you purely based on your use of medical marijuana!
While we recognize that the exact laws around medical marijuana are still confusing, the tips in this article can help you prepare for your next drug test. We recommend that all marijuana users make themselves familiar with their individual states laws, even in the cases where your state and your employer are pro-medical marijuana!
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