CWS 3.0: July 11, 2012

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Medicinal Marijuana Law Protects Workers

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy on May 31 signed into law an act that not only legalizes the use of marijuana for medical purposes, but protects users from adverse employment action by employers in the state.

Connecticut joins 16 other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing medical marijuana use and possession by certain individuals. However, the Connecticut law goes further than most similar laws because it specifically forbids employers from refusing to hire, discharging, penalizing or threatening individuals based on their medical marijuana use. Currently, only Arizona and Rhode Island have similar provisions.

However, the law precludes workers from smoking in the workplace, in a moving vehicle, on school grounds, in any public place or in the presence of a minor. It also provides that employers may prohibit the use of intoxicating substances during work hours and may discipline employees for being under the influence of intoxicating substances during work hours. In addition, the law permits employers to take action that is required either by federal law or to obtain federal funding even if such action is based upon the person’s status as a qualifying patient.

Because the law does not contain any enforcement mechanism, it is likely that an applicant or employee who believes he was unfairly treated by an employer due to his medical marijuana use would seek to file a lawsuit for failure to hire or discharge in violation of public policy. The law goes into effect on Oct. 1.

Buyers in Connecticut should review their substance abuse prevention policies and drug testing policies — and those of their staffing providers — to ensure they are in compliance with the law. Also, they should ensure employees are notified that the use of medical marijuana is prohibited during work hours and that disciplinary action will be taken against anyone who is under the influence of medical marijuana during work hours.

Further, buyers and their staffing providers should consult with employment law counsel when determining if discipline, termination or a refusal to hire is permitted in states which you operate with medical marijuana statutes.

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