Workplaces Weed Out Medical Marijuana Users

By McCarton Ackerman 03/21/12

How much protection can users of prescribed MMJ expect from employers' drug tests?

Medical weed creates a sticky issue.
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A San Francisco plumber with a valid medical marijuana prescription was denied work on a city project after testing positive for pot. It's prompting renewed questions on how to handle workers who fail drug tests despite holding prescriptions that are legal in their state. Rhode Island is currently the only state to offer full protection to employees who are medical marijuana cardholders, while Michigan's law only forbids card holders from smoking at work or just before their shifts. The federal government still doesn't recognize a legitimate medical purpose for cannabis, and there are no federal guidelines on how to address medicinal marijuana use in the workplace. “Employers in states that have legalized the medical use of marijuana under state law unfortunately remain free to fire employees who test positive for THC,” says Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “It is terribly unfair to these patients, but at this time it is not illegal.” As for the plumber, the business manager for his local union, Larry Mazzola Sr., has initiated talks with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) over potential protections for medical marijuana users. SFPUC spokesman Tyrone Jue says he and Mazzola will discuss the amendment at next month's SFPUC committee meeting: "We look forward to working with him to weed out any outstanding issues."

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.