Medical marijuana has been legal in Massachusetts since 2013 but what happens if you’re contemplating a career change and the company you’re interviewing with has a drug policy? What if you recently started using medical marijuana to treat one of the top 5 ailments and you’re worried about what might happen if your boss found out? Can you be fired for using medical marijuana? How do you talk to your boss about the benefits you’re getting from cannabis without exposing yourself to disciplinary action, suspension, or termination? Possessing marijuana is still a federal crime, so is it really OK to use medical marijuana in Massachusetts?
While these are not on our list of frequently asked questions, our Patient Advocates will tell you that workplace acceptance is a big concern for just about every new cannabis user. At Revolutionary Clinics, we’re not lawyers but we know enough about the landmark case of Barbuto vs Advantage Sales and Marketing, LLC to put your mind at ease.
Back in 2014, Cristina Barbuto accepted a job at Advantage Sales and Marketing, LLC (now Advantage Solutions) a business services provider with offices all over the country including three in Massachusetts. The job offer was contingent upon Cristina passing a drug test so she voluntarily disclosed that she used medical marijuana to ease the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. She took the test and started work. Approximately a day later, she was fired for failing the drug test. As a nationwide company, Advantage Sales and Marketing, LLC asserted that their drug policy applied to all their offices in all states. But what about states like Massachusetts where medical marijuana is legal?
That’s what Cristina wanted to find out. She took the matter to court where the Supreme Court of Massachusetts ruled that employers in Massachusetts cannot terminate an employee for using medical marijuana outside of work hours. According to the court, the medically authorized use of cannabis is as lawful as the use of any other prescribed medication. So while marijuana use is still illegal at the federal level, the court ruled that employees with medical conditions that justify the use of legal medical marijuana may assert claims of handicap discrimination.
Roughly translated, thanks to this case you cannot be fired in the state of Massachusetts for using medical marijuana.
The court also declared that Massachusetts employers must engage in an “interactive process” with a medical marijuana user to determine if any reasonable accommodations can be made. A discussion about “reasonable accommodations” can be anything from restructuring job duties to additional time off/leaves of absence to treat the medical condition. The point is, it’s OK to talk to your employer about your medical marijuana use. In fact, it’s more than OK, it’s the law.
Does this mean you can start vaping Black Mamba in the employee cafeteria? Of course not. You can’t be fired for using medical marijuana to treat a qualified condition but you can definitely face consequences for breaking your company’s rules, workplace safety policies or code of conduct. This is especially true if you work for a company that does business with or receives grants from the federal government. If your employer fits that description, you may be subject to the Drug-Free Workplace Act. It’s also important to note that recreational marijuana is an altogether different legal matter. As this article in the Guardian states: “extending protections to workers who use marijuana without a prescription can be difficult and such efforts have failed elsewhere in the country”. After you speak with your Human Resources department and find the common ground you both need to feel confident in your ability to perform your job, make sure you’re as respectful of your workplace with cannabis as you would be with any alcohol or prescription drug.
At Revolutionary Clinics, we’re here no just here to help you experience the therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana, we’re here to help you feel confident and secure as a medical marijuana user. If you’re ready to start a conversation with us, please stop by the Revolutionary Clinics dispensary nearest you or give us a call at 617-213-6006!