Twenty eight states have passed medical marijuana laws and eight states, including Washington D.C, have legalized recreational marijuana for adults twenty one and over. With the prevalence of the alternative medicine comes a shift in workplace and legal policy. It is important as an employer to be aware of the evolving laws and societal attitudes toward marijuana, and adjust the workplace accordingly. No one wants to deal with lawsuits and safety hazards, so whether you are an employer or employee review the following to gain a better understanding of medical marijuana and the workplace.

  • All Marijuana is Illegal Under Federal Law

Regardless of state legalization, marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it is considered to have no medical benefits, hence there are no laws that provide employment protection for users – even if they are a legal user with proper identification.

  • Medical Marijuana Cardholders can be Protected Under State Disability Laws

Although all marijuana under federal law is illegal and users do not have protection under employment laws, employees have the right to seek reasonable accommodations for medical marijuana use through disability discrimination laws. The substance is used for medicinal purposes, to alleviate and help chronic health conditions, so any disciplinary action or prejudice could fall under disability discrimination. Therefore, employers should proceed with caution when disciplining off-duty medical marijuana usage due to the accompanying health conditions that come with it, then the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may come into play.

  • Workplace Accommodations

Workplace accommodations are not required under federal or state laws, but some states and employers are permitting them. Employers should consider accommodations after a worker specifies that they are a medical marijuana cardholder to avoid potential ADA and safety issues. One kind of accommodation can be transferring an employee away from safety-sensitive tasks, like driving and operating heavy machinery.

  • Acknowledgement Forms

Medical marijuana is still controversial topic and a tricky situation to deal with in this tight job market. Each state has different laws in place for medical, and recreational, marijuana, so it is important for employers to tailor their drug policy to state laws. Employers could also create acknowledgement forms, which would require employees to acknowledge their medical use is genuine and they will not use onsite or come to work under the influence.


It is important for employers to have workplace policies and open communication with job candidates and employees to avoid dangerous situations and lawsuits – there are ways to protect the company and accommodate the worker.





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