The general consensus has never been this clear: Medical marijuana (MMJ) has powerful positive effects on health and quality of life for many users. Those who can benefit the most are sufferers of chronic pain, such as that you might feel after a workplace injury.
Unfortunately, there are some legal complications all MMJ users should know about.
As of this writing, 28 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. Recreational marijuana is also gaining traction in many states – it is expected to be available commercially in San Diego by 2018.
But the news isn’t all straightforward, and here’s why.
MMJ Users Still Face Employment Hurdles Due to Federal Regulations
State laws on MMJ are changing, but marijuana is still considered a controlled substance at the federal level. In theory, federal agencies can prosecute people for using marijuana in ways that are legal within their own states.
As concerning as that is, it isn’t even the most pressing issue for men and women who rely on medical marijuana to treat a workplace injury.
Whether your injury was sustained at work or not, you can face discriminatory employment policies due to marijuana use to treat it. This is partially because, unlike other medicinal drugs, the use of marijuana is not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal statute.
Until federal regulations change, MMJ users need to know the following:
Never come to work impaired under any circumstances, even with an injury;
You can still be drug tested under the existing policies of your workplace;
You can still be fired, not hired, or rejected for promotion due to drug test results.
Unfair Workplace Practices Remain a Threat for Medical Marijuana Patients
Legally, you cannot be fired for having a workers’ compensation claim or receiving benefits. However, unscrupulous employers can conspire to terminate you based on your MMJ use. For example, it may be possible for supervisors to target known MMJ users with drug tests for coercive purposes.
Users of medical marijuana simply do not yet have the same protections other patients do.
This is made more complicated by the fact that, even in San Diego, no consistent legal standard has been crafted to determine when someone is “impaired” by marijuana. Even avoiding the use of MMJ before work may not be enough.
Speak to a Workers’ Compensation Attorney Who Understands MMJ
If you’re on workers’ compensation in San Diego and feel you’ve been mistreated as a result of your MMJ use, connecting with an attorney is the best way to protect your rights. It may be necessary to shine a light on unfair employer behavior by taking the wrongdoer to court.