Can Employers Prohibit Employees from Using Medical Marijuana?

Can Employers Prohibit Employees from Using Medical Marijuana?


In 2010, voters passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) allowing patients with qualifying impairments to obtain marijuana for medicinal purposes. Although this law makes purchasing cannabis legal on the state level, we still hear quite a few questions about medical marijuana and employment. One question we get asked quite often is, “Can employers prohibit employees from using medical marijuana?”

Employer’s Rights

One thing is certain-AMMA does not require employers to permit cannabis use in the workplace or to tolerate employees who report to work under the influence of marijuana. In other words, employers in AZ can still institute drug-free-workplace policies to promote safety and production in their workplaces.

Prohibited Discrimination

Interestingly enough, Arizona is one of only 5 states that prohibit organizations from discriminating against workers simply for being medical marijuana patients. Article 36-2813 of the AZ medical marijuana law goes even further, stating that workplaces cannot discriminate against a registered patient who fails a drug test for marijuana unless that patient used or possessed cannabis on the work premises or was impaired during work hours. This means that an employee cannot be fired for screening positive for marijuana unless it can be shown that he/she was using it at work.

Federal Laws

Marijuana is still classified as a schedule 1 drug and illegal in the United States under federal law. Consequently, any federal employees working in the state of AZ can still be terminated for testing positive for marijuana use. And according to federal regulations, there are still several classes of employees that must submit to regular drug testing including testing for marijuana. For instance, the Department of Transportation issues strict guidelines for safety-sensitive employees, stating that it remains unacceptable for them to use marijuana. Safety-sensitive employees include bus drivers, train engineers, pilots, aircraft maintenance personnel, and armed security guards.

Additionally, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not require employers to allow people with disabilities to use marijuana as a reasonable accommodation, even if that person is a medical marijuana card holder.

What Should You Do?

If you have any doubts about how your medical marijuana patient status will affect your employment, review your company’s policies in full. It also may be a good idea to consult a local attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can help you navigate the grey areas that still exist in Arizona regarding medical marijuana and employment.

For more details about the medical marijuana laws in Arizona, as well as other helpful cannabis insights, read more articles on the Arizona Organix blog. We also encourage patients to stop into our dispensary any day between 8am and 8pm to talk to our expert staff about these complex topics.