Employment Protections under the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act
Much has been discussed regarding the employment protection provisions of Act 16 of 2016 (the Medical Marijuana Act), formerly Senate Bill 3. It has been widely noted that the Act contains language protecting the jobs of patients who are patients approved to use medical marijuana. However, the Act separately contains exceptions to the patient employment protections that limit their usefulness to many categories of employees. Also, at the outset, it must be stressed that as of this time, no patient, and certainly no adult patient, has any legal protections of any sort as a result of the Act. Until implementation, there is no lawful use of medical marijuana. This will only change upon issuance of temporary regulations from the Department of Health, which should occur in relatively short order.
Section 2103 of the Act states the following:
(b) Employment –
(1) No employer may discharge, threaten, refuse to hire or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against an employee regarding an employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, location or privileges solely on the basis of such employee’s status as an individual who is certified to use medical marijuana.
This protection only applies to the worker’s status as a patient, and does not protect the right of the worker to actually use medical marijuana in any manner, place or time relating to or affecting the worker’s job. Section 2103 (b)(2) of the Act states:
(2) Nothing in this act shall require an employer to make any accommodation of the use of medical marijuana on the property or premises of any place of employment. This act shall in no way limit an employer’s ability to discipline an employee for being under the influence of medical marijuana in the workplace or for working while under the influence of medical marijuana when the employee’s conduct falls below the standard of care normally accepted for that position.
As you can see, the employee can be disciplined to any degree for simply being “under the influence” of medical marijuana, as well as for the use of it while working. Therefore, even after implementation of the program, workers should use extreme caution in determining their level of protection under the Act.
In addition, if it is determined that you were under the influence of the medical marijuana at the time you sustain a work related injury, you could be found ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
If you have been discharged from your job or have been denied benefits as a result of your legal use of medical marijuana, you should speak with an experienced Pennsylvania employment attorney to determine your options.