Arizona Employers: Is Your Workplace Ready for Medical Marijuana?

With the passage of Proposition 203, Arizona recently became the 15th state to legalize marijuana for certain medical uses. Guest Author Rachel Weiss, an employment lawyer with Gammage & Burnham, urges Arizona employers to educate themselves about the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act and how it will affect the workplace.

 Is Your Workplace Ready for Medical Marijuana?

Emplyment Law Attorney Rachel Weiss

 Arizonans with qualifying medical conditions will soon be able to buy and use marijuana.  Some of them might be your employees.  Others could be filling out job applications in your lobby.  Employers need to adjust their policies and practices to comply with the new law and protect themselves from liability. 

 First, anti-discrimination policies must be updated to prohibit discrimination against employees or applicants based on their status as registered cardholders.  You can’t fire or refuse to hire someone because he is legally allowed to smoke pot, just like you can’t fire or refuse to hire a woman because she is a woman.

Second, drug testing policies must have an exception for cardholders who test positive.  Unless your card-carrying employees come to work stoned or spark up while on duty, they can’t be fired for failing a drug test.  You should modify your policy accordingly.

 Third, when a worker tells his boss that he uses medical marijuana, he is probably putting his employer on notice that he has a disability that brings him within the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Although the employer does not have to accommodate that employee by allowing time off to roll a joint, this knowledge may trigger your obligation to determine whether other reasonable accommodations are available. 

 This is only the tip of the iceberg.  The Medical Marijuana Act raises a bewildering number of questions in a variety of fields besides employment law, such as health care, land use, law enforcement and revenue, to name just a few.  Attorneys at Gammage & Burnham authored Proposition 203 and will be actively participating in the Department of Health Services’ rulemaking process.  If you would like assistance with your employment policies and practices, or if you have questions about any other aspect of the new law, please contact me at rweiss@gblaw.com.

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