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Medical Marijuana and Employment

Employment Provisions Under State Medical Marijuana Law

PA medical marijuana laws in relation to employment expressly do the following:

  • prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee because of their status as a patient

  • does not require employers to make special accommodations for medical marijuana use on the job

  • permits employers to discipline employees for being under the influence of medical marijuana while at work

  • does not require employers to do anything that would violate federal laws, and

  • permits employers to prohibit employees from performing certain job-related functions while under the influence of medical marijuana or because of their status as a medical marijuana patient.

What Protections Does the Law Provide?

Pennsylvania medical marijuana law specifically states that employers cannot “discharge, threaten, refuse to hire, or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against” patients’ “compensation, terms, conditions, location or privileges” solely based on their status as registered medical marijuana users.

This means that employers are prohibited from refusing to hire you, firing you, or taking any other adverse employment action based on your status as a medical marijuana patient in PA.

What About Drug Tests?

These protections do apply to pre-employment drug screening and random drug testing for existing employees in most cases. This protects registered patients from being fired for failing a drug test for marijuana or not receiving a job for the same. 

However, many patients will feel that if drug testing is a part of the hiring process for a new job disclosing their status as a registerd medical marijuana patient to a prospective employer and potentially failing a pre-employment drug test for marijuana could risk them getting the job. This depends on the employer, as there is nothing under state law that prohibits drug testing for marijuana as a part of the application process.  

If you are a patient in Philadelphia, PA there was a city ordinance that became effective January 1, 2022 that prohibits employers from doing just this. This ordinance makes it illegal for employers, labor organizations, employment agencies, or any other agent of an employer to require prospective employees to submit to testing for marijuana as a condition of their employment.

This does not apply to:

  • law enforcement positions

  • employment that requires a commercial driver’s license

  • any position requiring the supervision or care of children, medical patients, or disabled persons, and

  • any position in which the employee could “significantly impact the health or safety of other employees or members of the public.”

This also does not apply to employment that federally requires drug screening or that has a valid collective bargaining agreement with drug screening as a required condition of employment.

Do I Have to Disclose My Status as a Cardholder to my Employer?

No patient is required under law to disclose to their employer that they hold a valid medical marijuana card but if you believe that drug screening will be a regular part of your job or a part of the hiring process for a job you may want to disclose your status as a cardholder to your employer or prospective employer and provide the necessary documentation that gives you protection against discrimination for medical marijuana use. There is also nothing under law that prohibits an employer from specifically asking about it if they want.

Can I Use Medical Marijuana in the Workplace?

PA medical marijuana law does not provide any protections for patients to use medical marijuana in the workplace or while they are on the clock. This is left at the employer’s discretion and employers are permitted to discipline and take adverse action against employees for using medical marijuana on-site or while working. While this may contradict federal protections, specifically the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), since marijuana is remains federally illegal those protections do not apply to medical marijuana use in the workplace.

Are there any jobs that prohibit medical marijuana use under law?

There are certain job functions that the law expressly prohibits anyone with more than 10 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in their system from performing. This includes the following specific duties:

  • Chemicals that require a permit issued by the federal government or a state government

  • High-voltage electricity or any other public utility

  • Employment duties at heights or in confined spaces, including but not limited to, mining

For these specific functions the law provides no protection for medical marijuana cardholders, even if they only consume medical marijuana only during non-working hours.

The law also permits employers to prohibit patients from performing any task that the “employer deems life-threatening” to either the employee themselves or any other employee. Patients also may be prohibited from performing anything which “could result in a public health or safety risk while under the influence of medical marijuana.” This is expressly stated to not count as an adverse employment decision even if it results in financial harm.

Can you file suit if you feel you are discriminated against?

Yes. While the Medical Marijuana Act does not explicitly state that individuals can sue for being discriminated against for medical marijuana use there have been court decisions setting precedent for a right to private action under the law. In Palmiter v. Commonwealth Health Sys., Inc., (2021) the Superior Court of Pennsylvania ruled that there is an implied private right of action under the Medical Marijuana Act. This case in particular established a private right of action for wrongful termination for valid medical marijuana cardholders that failed a drug screening for marijuana use that occurred during non-working hours.

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