Will Anyone Know If I Get a Medical Marijuana Card? [ANSWERED]

Finding the precise number of medical marijuana patients in the United States is extremely difficult. The figure rises at a tremendous rate annually as an increasing number of Americans turn to weed to help alleviate the symptoms of chronic conditions.

One of the primary fears among the MMJ community is the belief that too many people are aware of their usage. Even in states where weed is recreationally legal, certain employers terminate the contracts of anyone who tests positive for THC-COOH metabolites. Remember, the substance is illegal at the federal level. Therefore, organizations don’t feel obligated to adhere to state laws.

A prime example occurred in Colorado in 2010. At that time, weed was legal for medical use. Dish Network fired Brandon Coats for using cannabis to control his leg spasms. He developed quadriplegia after a car accident. Despite having his MMJ card, Coats lost his job for smoking marijuana off-duty. In 2015, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing the zero-tolerance drug policy approach of Colorado businesses to trump state law. It is a similar situation across the country today.

The landscape has changed quite a bit since then. The percentage of companies willing to terminate the contract of staff members in the event of a first-time positive test for marijuana is falling. There are also dozens of examples of MMJ patients, in particular, suing firms for firing them after failing a drug screening.

Even with a slightly higher level of protection, however, many employees are still at the whims of their employers. As such, it is understandable that they want as few entities as possible to learn about their possession of a medical marijuana card.

In this article, we provide crucial information on who can see your MMJ cardholder status. If you are an American citizen, this is pretty good news. Sadly, we can’t say the same for non-citizens.

Marijuana and Medical Privacy

While cannabis is legal medicinally in three-quarters of American states plus D.C., you only get a state-issued medical marijuana card after receiving a doctor’s recommendation. The fact that a qualified medical practitioner recommended the weed means the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects you. As such, this information remains private and does NOT show up on a background check performed by an employer or other authorities.

The entire point of HIPAA is to protect patient privacy and stop the willful or accidental disclosure of healthcare information. Indeed, the restrictions on the MMJ card are so strict that even your dispensary only has access to the validity of the card, and NOT your healthcare information. As a consequence, no third party should receive access without your express permission.

Marijuana clinics typically have to enter your MMJ use information in a state’s medical marijuana use registry. When you meet with a physician and get your recommendation, they enter the following information into the record:

  • The nature of your qualifying condition.
  • The amount of medical marijuana authorized and the form.
  • The types of weed delivery services you need for treatment.

What spooks MMJ cardholders is the possibility of their weed use showing up in a background check. RELAX! Remember, you only have the card on the recommendation of a doctor. Therefore, it is part of your medical history.

However, please note that, as the card itself is state-issued, HIPAA does not formally protect it. Fortunately, it receives special protections due to the implied knowledge it can give about your health records. Look at your MMJ card, and you’ll notice that it doesn’t have data, such as your Social Security Number, attached.

Staying Off the Radar

Ever since the implementation of the first medical marijuana act, in California in 1996, there have been concerns over whether cardholders are on ‘government watch lists’. There was a two-decade gap between the implementation of medical and recreational marijuana laws in the Golden State. During that period, patients required a doctor’s recommendation. In 2003, the state initiated a Medical Marijuana Identification Program (MMIP) to offer protection from certain weed crimes.

It was a voluntary program met with grave suspicion due to the belief that it exposed you to unwanted government attention. In fact, only 20% of MMJ patients in the state held a Medical Marijuana Identification Card (MMID) by 2017! However, Californian attorneys claim that privacy concerns should not prevent you from acquiring the card.

According to state law, police officers can verify the validity of state MMID cards quickly. In contrast, if you only have a doctor’s recommendation, a cop can arrest or detain you until everything is validated. When your application for the MMID card is approved, you get an anonymous ID number. Finally, both the state AND your county destroy the form.

Remember, a state’s MMJ application system should not contain personal information such as your name, address, or social security number. It does provide a unique user ID number and information on whether the card is valid. The MMJ card itself should have the dates of issue and expiration, a passport-style photo, and your number, along with the name of the state. In states such as Illinois, the card also has your date of birth and address.

Will Medical Marijuana Show Up on a Background Check?

The answer is ‘NO’ in general, but it isn’t as straightforward as one might hope. HIPAA prevents people from accessing your medical records. As a result, they don’t see your MMJ information. Alas, an employer can choose different criteria for their background checks, such as credit reports, criminal records, and individual medical records. Your medical history ‘should’ be restricted to how it affects your ability to do the job, but determining the precise criteria is not easy.

does having a medical card show up on a background check

The vast majority of your medical history is confidential. HIPAA, for instance, protects a candidate with a history of mental illness because it shouldn’t come up in a background check. However, if you apply for a role in law enforcement, in the military, or a job that involves working with kids, a company can request permission to conduct certain health checks. It is up to you to determine whether you wish to disclose this information. Bear in mind that refusing to comply will likely reduce your chances of getting the job.

Show Discretion

Unfortunately, the federally illegal status of weed means you can’t flaunt your use, even in states where it is recreationally legal. Even before conducting the background check, most employers will do a quick search engine query to learn more about you. It is common sense not to display your consumption of marijuana on social media, for example. This means no pictures of you lighting up a blunt, or discussing the plant on your Facebook or Twitter accounts.

It should go without saying that you don’t use weed at work, or turn up stoned! It is also a bad idea to chat about marijuana with colleagues. We also advise choosing a dispensary located far away from your workplace. Otherwise, there is a chance that a company staff member will see you enter the building. An increasing number of people are successfully suing companies that discriminate against their medical marijuana use. Although you may have a case if you are in the same boat, don’t count on it.

Perform a Background Check… On Yourself

Did you know it is possible to run a background check on yourself? When looking for such a service, only consider sites that offer:

  • Extremely detailed research to ensure your MMJ use is NOT identifiable.
  • A wide array of data searches.
  • Reports that are both accurate and simple to understand.
  • Easy to use dashboards.
  • Excellent customer support.
  • A mobile app to let you check on the move.

However, even the very best background checking sites can’t provide a 100% guarantee that they have found everything about you.

Non-American Citizens & MMJ Card Privacy

Back in 2009, Eric H. Holder Jr., the Attorney General at the time, said that the federal government would not make it a priority to use its resources to target MMJ patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers. In the intervening period, sensitive patient information seized by the police during dispensary raids has NOT been used to prosecute MMJ patients.

The outlook is less rosy for non-American citizens. In April 2017, John Kelly, the Homeland Security Secretary at the time, had some bad news for immigrants. He said that ICE treated marijuana as a deportable offense, especially for the undocumented.

While non-US citizens should, in theory, receive the same HIPAA protection, the stakes are MUCH higher than merely losing a job. ICE makes hundreds of noncriminal arrests each month, and tens of thousands of people are arrested on civil immigration charges every year. If you are a non-US citizen and use medical marijuana, please avoid the following:

  • Carrying any accessories or paraphernalia related to marijuana.
  • Looking for work within the medical marijuana field.
  • Admitting marijuana use to any border control or immigration official.
  • Mentioning cannabis on any social media account or your mobile phone.

Your green card is at risk if you are caught using marijuana, even if you live in a legal state and have a valid MMJ card.

Medical Marijuana Information Is Safe (For the Most Part)

Overall, the HIPAA legislation protects most of your medical information from scrutiny. MMJ patients receive the same doctor-patient confidentiality as they do when using prescription medication. However, employers can request individual medical records, depending on the type of job you apply for.

While an increasing number of companies won’t fire you for weed use off-duty, a large proportion still operate a zero-tolerance policy. If you have an MMJ card, don’t make your usage of the substance evident to anyone in the workplace. Non-US citizens risk their very future in the country if caught using weed, and the current administration’s stance on immigration means you have a target already painted on your back.

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