Court Ruling Allows Employers to Terminate Medical Marijuana Users

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The State Supreme Court in Washington recently ruled that the Medical Use of Marijuana Act (MUMA) does not provide any legal employment protections in the workplace for individuals who use medical marijuana. As result, any individual who uses medical marijuana under the supervision of a licensed medical practitioner may still be terminated if drug tests come back positive. This ruling could have widespread implications and is important for employers to understand.

Other states with similar medical marijuana use laws, or are considering them, will likely examine this ruling for implications in their own state. A simple glance at the effects of drug use in the workplace offers some startling facts.

• More than 75 percent of substance abusers are employed.
• These workers tend to change jobs about three times per year, costing employers billions of dollars every year.
• Substance abusers are, on average, 33 percent less productive than other workers.
• Substance abusers are two-and-a-half times more likely to be absent eight or more days every year.
• Substance abusers are 300% more likely to have a worker’s compensation claim.

Substance abuse is a serious issue within the workplace that can have costly ramifications. It costs an average of $7,000 to replace a salaried employee. Add to that the cost of any litigation that comes from disgruntled, terminated employees and the expense can be astronomical. Drug use in the workplace can also jeopardize the safety of customers, vendors and other employees. This ruling in Washington essentially absolves employers of discrimination cases against them with regard to discharging or failing to hire an individual for medical marijuana use.

Why is this ruling so crucial to employers? The federal government still does not acknowledge the legal medical use of marijuana and as a result, employers have been caught in the crosshairs of this issue.

There are four best practices for addressing medical marijuana in a drug-free workplace policy that each employer should consider, including recommendations for addressing the differences in federal and state regulations.

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