Many employers are still penalizing employees for cannabis consumption, even with federal legalization on the horizon.

More doctors and scientists around the world are starting to recognize the positive attributes of cannabis. In the US, medical cannabis consumption is legal in 36 out of 50 states. Federal cannabis legalization was one of current President Joe Biden’s campaign promises.

Despite the legal nature of medical cannabis, consumers still face the risk of disciplinary action or even termination in their workplace. Although US law makes the buying and possession of medical cannabis legal for those with a medical cannabis card, it doesn’t protect them from the consequences of failing a company drug test.

Many high-profile companies have zero-tolerance policies for cannabis consumption. While it’s understandable that employers wouldn’t want their employees getting high on the job, drug tests often return positive results for consumption that took place outside of work.

Employees at major companies such as Walmart and even city workers have been fired or experienced disciplinary action due to zero tolerance drug use policies. These policies are unfair to people who are prescribed medical cannabis and consume it to maintain their health.

Additionally, because cannabis can be detected in the body long after consumption, mandatory drug tests often result in employees being disciplined for cannabis consumption outside of work hours or even days before the test. 

Cannabinoids can be detected in the body through urine tests for three days after consumption for occasional consumers. Heavy chronic consumers can receive positive test results for cannabis consumption for up to 30 days. Saliva tests have a more limited window, with occasional consumption remaining detectable for 1-3 days and heavy consumption being detectable for 29 days. Forcing people to make the impossible choice between their job and their health is unreasonable. People are understandably unhappy with the current situation and the lack of laws protecting those on the medical cannabis program.

Recently legislators in Florida have been working to amend the situation and provide protection to employees who are part of medical cannabis programs. They have proposed a bill stating that employers are forbidden from taking adverse action against employees or even potential job applicants who are qualified program members.

While the bill does include an exception for employees whose job performance has been negatively affected by the treatment, the employer must bring evidence that the employee displays specific symptoms that hurt their performance.

The bill also includes a clause which states that if an employee or job applicant does not pass an employee administered drug test, they can explain whether the test result was due to cannabis prescribed to them by their doctor.

The employer must give the employee written notice of the positive test result within five business days. The employee then has an additional five days after receiving the notice to contest the result.

The bill further protects those who are unable or unwilling to contest the result. The employer must pay for a second test to confirm the results of the first before taking disciplinary action against the employee.

Additional requirements listed in the bill include employers accommodating employees’ needs using medical cannabis, including altering their obligations. However, this only applies when it wouldn’t cause undue harm to the employee or employer or prevent an employee from fulfilling their responsibilities.

However, employees must still limit the treatment to their homes as any employee caught in possession of cannabis at the workplace may legally be fired, whether the cannabis in their possession is for medical use or not.