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

UFC Fighter Nick Diaz’s Cannabis Related Suspension Reduced

UFC Fighter Nick Diaz’s Cannabis Related Suspension Reduced

The Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) has reduced UFC fighter Nick Diaz’s suspension to 18 months from its original sentencing of 5 years. Diaz’s original sentence, handed down in September of 2015, was due to testing positive for cannabis use stemming from his most recent UFC fight in January of 2015.

The NAC’s governing body scaled back Diaz’s sentence through a quick unanimous vote but declined to give details on the matter. In addition to the reduced suspension time, Diaz also had the size of his fine reduced, from $165,000 to $100,000.

Diaz’s initial suspension was handed down following his third test-positive for cannabis use. The ensuing public backlash in his favor brought forth an online petition that garnered 100,000 signatures, support from other fighters like Rhonda Rousey, and even a response from the White House.

A spokesperson for the NAC declined to comment on the commission’s scaling back of Diaz’s sentence, calling it “an ongoing matter.”

Diaz is eligible to return to the UFC ring on August 1, 2016. He is likely to book a fight with for the time period immediately following his renewed eligibility.

Despite what was ultimately an easing of Diaz’s sentencing, the UFC last summer imposed a strict new series of anti-drug penalties on its fighters, which included enhanced penalties for cannabis use.

photo credit: UFC

Washington D.C. Approves Bill to Prohibit Employer Marijuana Testing

Washington D.C. Approves Bill to Prohibit Employer Marijuana Testing

Voters in Washington D.C. ended marijuana prohibition within the district last election day. Retail marijuana sales have not been legalized in the capital, but legislation to pass that is also in the works. If marijuana use is legalized, is it fair for employers to discriminate against users by drug testing job applicants?

Councilmember, Vincent Orange, does not think so, and he introduced a bill to address the issue. The “Prohibition of Pre-Employment Marijuana Testing Act of 2014” bill was heard by a D.C. Council Tuesday, and it was unanimously approved. This bill prevents employers from drug testing applicants during the hiring process, or before the job offer has been made.

Orange reportedly addressed this issue with the statements,

“The citizens of the District voted for Initiative 71, to legalize marijuana, and this bill will protect citizens who legally smoke marijuana but are then subsequently penalized for it through loss of employment opportunities. The bill aims to prevent the loss of a job opportunity for job seekers who have used marijuana prior to receiving a job offer but it does not remove an employer’s right to prohibit the use of drugs at work or at any time during employment.”

Once an employee officially accepts a job offer, he or she is still required to follow workplace policies, and nothing in the bill addresses drug testing hired employees. The bill only protects pre-employment discrimination for marijuana use.


photo credit: mshcdn

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