Are Employers Required to Accommodate an Employee’s Use of Medical Marijuana?

Are Employers Required to Accommodate an Employee’s Use of Medical Marijuana?


Under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, there are some protections for medical marijuana patient rights. However, there is still some confusion as to the rights of employees in the workplace. A common question we hear is: “Are employers required to accommodate MMJ?”

The Short Answer is ‘Not Yet.’

The AMMA prohibits workplace discrimination for medical marijuana patients in AZ and bars employers. This means companies cannot discipline cardholders, or refuse to hire them just because they have a medical marijuana card or because they tested positive for prior marijuana use. Employers are prohibited from asking if you have a card, and you’re not required to disclose.

However, as of the time of this writing, there are no further workplace accommodations that an employer may be required to make. This is mainly because the Americans With Disabilities Act does not recognize medical cannabis use itself as a disability, so employers are not required to accommodate its use. Employers are allowed to designate their workplaces as non-smoking and drug-free, barring cannabis patients from medicating while at work. But new cases are being tried every day, and interpretations of the current laws are subject to challenge and change.

Arizona Anti Discrimination Law

Arizona is one of the few states with laws designed to protect medical marijuana cardholders from workplace discrimination. The law states that Arizona employers cannot refuse to hire, fire or otherwise penalize a job candidate or employee unless…

  • Failure to discriminate against them will cause the employer to lose federal funding or contracts
  • The jobs involve tasks that are designated “safety-sensitive”
  • The employee has medical marijuana on the work premises during business hours (whether they are using it or not)
  • The employee is impaired during work hours and on the work premises even if they ingested it elsewhere

Massacusetts Supreme Court Decision

On July 17, 2017, a groundbreaking case in Massachusetts (Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing,) was decided in the state Supreme Judicial Court that may have implications in all medical marijuana states including Arizona. The state high court ruled that marijuana used for medicinal purposes is just as lawful as other medications used by employees and should be treated as such. If a medical marijuana patient is not impaired on the job and is ready and willing to work, the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation unless it will cause undue hardship.

The first-of-its-kind ruling is only binding in MA, but it opens the doors for similar decisions in other states, and the implications are still being studied.

There’s a lot to navigate when it comes to medical marijuana employment restrictions and workplace drug testing. For more guidance, stop by Arizona Organix and let us help you understand your rights as a patient.


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