More than half the population resides in a green state, where either medical and/or adult use cannabis is legal. However, many cannabis consumers, either with or without a medical marijuana recommendation, may still fear what their employers could do if their pot use were discovered.
Even in states where cannabis is legal, many employers still rely on old school drug testing, while others may choose to look the other way or ignore an employee’s cannabis use altogether. The bottom line is that under federal law, cannabis is still illegal — and especially for federal employees, the discovery of cannabis use is grounds for sanction.
So whether or not you work as a public servant or for a private company, you can’t show up to work high and expect your employer to be okay with it. It gets a little tricker when you’re a medical marijuana patient: does coming to work under the influence of your medicine count as being high? Depends how well you can function with your medication.
A number of cases involving employees with medical marijuana recommendations have reached the courts and more often than not, the judges sided with the employers. One case that came to the Colorado Supreme Court in 2015, for instance, upheld Dish Network’s decision to fire a disabled employee who failed a drug test on account of using medical marijuana. The court ruled that it was okay for an employer to fire someone for off-duty behavior that’s illegal under federal law — like using medical marijuana —and which manifests in a drug test at work.
While similar cases with similar outcomes have been brought in other legal states like California or Washington, more and more employers are beginning to make accommodations for medical marijuana patients with pre-existing health conditions.
A more recent case in Massachusetts this year for instance held that you can’t fire an employee for using medical marijuana, as doing so would violate anti-discrimination policy.
With nearly 40 percent of all American employees subjected to drug testing during the hiring process, it may be difficult to tell how an employer or prospective employer will respond to cannabis. For starters, even if you live in an adult use-legal state, it still might be a good idea to have a medical marijuana card to defend why you might use cannabis. Moreover, while you shouldn’t have to defend your off-duty behavior, it helps to show that you have a condition for which you use cannabis as treatment.
Additionally, especially if you take a urine test, there’s no way for that test to indicate that you were impaired on the job. Read more about the different kinds of drug tests here to learn how long cannabis stays in your system and how that shows up in a test.