Bosses Get Legal Advice on Medical Marijuana in the Workplace

In a former bus barn near Denver, marijuana plants live their lives on camera, part of an intense seed-to-sale scrutiny that distinguishes Colorado's medical-marijuana industry. Washington is looking to Colorado as it considers rules for a new legal marijuana market. (Alan Berner/Seattle Times/MCT)

Now that medical marijuana is legal in the Garden State and a third of the other states, lawyers are busy figuring out what advice to offer.  It's complicated since the federal government still views the drug as illegal.  


For one, how should employers treat licensed marijuana users in the workplace without violating anti-discrimination laws?  

Last year, the Supreme Court said employers have the right to fire workers for using marijuana.  But labor lawyers suggest the bosses issue memos to clarify their zero-tolerance policies and to make sure they offer other types of accommodations to workers who have medical conditions that require marijuana treatment.     

More memos, more tweaks to company policies, more work for attorneys.

Though taking a puff is not as acceptable in the workplace as taking an aspirin, employers must be careful not to create an overall workplace environment that could be viewed as discriminatory.     


The lawyers say the employers should also pass out copies of the company's policy on accommodating disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The underlying medical condition may require accommodations. 

An even thornier issue is what employers should do about drug testing.  While the licensed marijuana user is allowed to smoke the drug at home, THC levels can remain in the blood for weeks. 

It's uncharted territory.