Can you be fired for using medical marijuana? The answer is yes, according to most states even though they allow medical marijuana use. You can be fired for failing a drug test at your workplace while using medical marijuana, even if you have proof that you are a registered patient who is legally allowed to do so.
47 states in the U.S. allow some form of medical marijuana use but only a handful of these have passed laws to protect the rights of users to legally use the drug without fear of penalties at work, school, or anywhere else in their lives. However, marijuana use remains illegal under federal law and there is no duty to accommodate its use which results in court decisions in many states weighing heavily in favor of employers. Despite almost unanimous support for medical use of marijuana, only 9 states protect users from getting fired.
New York, Arizona, Delaware, Maine, and Connecticut have passed laws that protect employees from being fired for medical marijuana use unless it can be proved that they were impaired on the job. If you live in these states and you have a legal prescription for medical use of marijuana, an employer is restricted from firing you if it does not affect your work and it is only used off-duty.
Gary Ross from California who worked at Raging Wire Telecommunications was fired in 2001 when he failed a drug test. On the recommendation of his doctor, Gary was treating his debilitating back pain with medical marijuana which is legal for medical as well as recreational use in California. In 2008 a California judge found his firing was legal. Although he was exempted from criminal prosecution, the state’s medical marijuana laws could not protect him from being fired.
In contrast, Cristina Barbuto from Massachusetts was offered a position at Advantage Sales and Marketing. She told them that she had a written certification to use medical marijuana for Crohn’s disease which would likely cause her to fail a drug test. When she did fail the test, the company fired her. In contrast to the similar case of Gary Ross in California, when she sued for discrimination on the basis of her disability, the Massachusetts court found her firing to be unlawful and waived the company’s drug policy.
Although the use of medical marijuana is legal in both California and Massachusetts, the outcome for Cristina was different because the Medical Marijuana Act in Massachusetts protects people with debilitating medical conditions from prosecution, arrest, and penalties.
Although the majority of states believe that people should be allowed the right to medicate with marijuana, legalizing its use without protecting the rights of patients frustrates the intent of voters and the law, as well as the growing market for medical marijuana.