Employers In Medical Marijuana States Can Still Drug Test Employees, Federal Judge Rules

Employers In Medical Marijuana States Can Still Drug Test Employees, Federal Judge Rules

In yet another case with implications for workers who are legally using medical marijuana under state laws, a federal judge has given a New Jersey business permission to continue drug testing employees for cannabis—and to punish them if they test positive, regardless of whether they have doctors’ recommendations.

Of the 31 states that have legalized medical marijuana, only nine have some form of explicit employment protection for qualified medical cannabis patients.

New Jersey is not one of those states. And no state protects an employee from termination if the employer stands to “lose a benefit under federal law,” such as a license or funding, according to legal analysts.

Daniel Cotto Jr. had worked as a forklift driver at Ardagh Glass since 2011. According to his suit, at the time of his hiring, the company was aware he was using medical marijuana to treat pain stemming from a 2007 injury.

The company terminated him in 2017 after he declined to submit to breathalyzer and urine screenings following a 2016 accident, according to NJ.com.

As per the suit, a company human resources manager told him his medical marijuana use was a “problem.”

Cotto sued, citing state law barring discrimination.

This week, Judge Robert Kugler of U.S. District Court in Camden, New Jersey dismissed the case, ruling that the state’s medical marijuana law “does not mandate employer acceptance—or, more particularly, to waive a drug test—of an employee’s use of a substance that is illegal under federal law.”

Without such protections, according to precedent in New Jersey courts, employers “may continue to [ban] its use through lawful workplace drug testing policies,” Kugler wrote.

In Cotto’s case, his job as a forklift driver may have scotched his case from the beginning. A 1992 state Supreme Court decision ruled that forklift operators specifically are in a “safety-sensitive” position, and thus can be drug tested.

(A recent study showed that workplace deaths are significantly lower in states with legal medical marijuana.)

“Ardagh Glass is within its rights to refuse to waive a drug test for federally-prohibited narcotics,” wrote Kugler, who added that New Jersey is also an “at-will” employment state—which means that employers are permitted to terminate employees “for good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all.”

The only exceptions, under discrimination laws, are if an employee is fired for being a member of a protected class, such as a sufferer of a disability.

Though medical marijuana users like Cotto may argue that injuries that require prescription medication—or cannabis—places them in such a class, Cotto did not argue that in his suit, according to Kugler.

As per NJ.com:

“Kugler said in his ruling that Cotto was not claiming that Ardagh was discriminating against him based on his disability, but ‘discriminated against him by refusing to accommodate his use of medical marijuana by waiving a drug test.’”

The case reflects the necessity for states to include employment protections in their medical marijuana laws.

It also presages another impending issue—employment protections for users of recreational marijuana. Currently, no states offer such protections, meaning legal users of cannabis still face risks that users of alcohol or other drugs do not.

To that end, Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) last month filed legislation that would shield most federal employees from being fired for off-the-job marijuana use that is legal in their state.

https://massroots.wpengine.com/news/congressman-pushes-federal-employment-protections-marijuana-consumers/

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Employers In Medical Marijuana States Can Still Drug Test Employees, Federal Judge Rules

Adult Use of Cannabis Doubles in 12 Years

Adult Use of Cannabis Doubles in 12 Years

A survey released by JAMA Psychiatry on October 21 revealed that the number of American adults who admit to using cannabis has doubled between 2001 and 2013. In 2001, only four percent of adults admitted to using cannabis. Twelve years later, in 2013, the number had increased to nearly 10 percent. Concluded the survey:

“The prevalence of marijuana use more than doubled between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013.”

Many media outlets have noted that increased use coincided with a more lenient attitude toward cannabis on the part of American adults and an increased willingness to legalize the herb. The most recent survey from Gallup regarding Americans’ acceptance of cannabis reveals that 58 percent support full legalization of the plant and the many medical and recreational products that can be produced from it. This is a significant shift. The latest polling numbers reveal that the nation has gone from a minority (48 percent) supporting cannabis legalization in 2013 to a majority supporting it only two years later.

adult-use-of-cannabis-doubles-in-12-years-1

In 2002, at the beginning of the period covered by the JAMA study, only one-third of Americans favored legalization of cannabis, according to the Gallup numbers. Many speculate that the successful examples of legalization set forth by states like Colorado, Washington, and Oregon — and the resulting media attention devoted to these “experiments” — has begun to educate average citizens and has brought the topic into the mainstream. The JAMA Psychiatry figures obviously don’t account for this additional increase during the past two years.

As additional states come online and Canada screams its intent to the international community to legalize recreational cannabis within its borders, the topic of marijuana and its prohibition will become increasingly common in the media and on the minds of average consumers. This will encourage many to investigate the topic to learn the facts. Of these, many will conclude that cannabis is a safe and therapeutic herb that is considerably better than alcohol and opiates.

Increased use of cannabis and the economic and public health success of states like Oregon and Washington will continue to educate average Americans of the relative benefits of cannabis use, especially when compared to alcohol and pharmaceutical drugs and their negative, often life-threatening side effects.

Photo credit: Drug Policy Alliance

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