On November 8th 2016, Florida voted to become one of the currently 28 states that have made medical marijuana legal. The legalization of medical marijuana is a victory for many Floridians who suffer from conditions that can be improved or alleviated through the use of proscribed forms of marijuana. However, many questions still loom about the impact of the legalization of medical marijuana and what protections will be offered to patients who are proscribed this drug by their physicians. One issue that is likely to come up is the question of whether employers are prohibited from punishing or firing employees who use medical marijuana legally under the supervision of a physician.
In what way does Amendment 2 change the law related to medical marijuana use?
Amendment 2 shields individuals who are using medical marijuana as prescribed by their doctors for specific conditions from being criminally prosecuted in Florida. Under federal law, marijuana is still illegal, and the state enacted amendment does not impact the legality of marijuana federally. Amendment 2 does not legalize the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. While several states have legalized recreational use of marijuana, Florida is not one of those states.
How does Amendment 2 protect employees?
Amendment 2 does not provide a great deal of details directing employers on how they are to handle the use of medical marijuana by their employees. The amendment does state that it is not necessary for employers to accommodate the use of medical marijuana at the workplace. It is therefore safe to say that an employer does not have to provide breaks for an employee so that the employee may use marijuana, nor does an employer have to provide a location where the use of marijuana would be permitted during existing breaks. If part of an employee’s job includes operating vehicles, such as driving a company car or making deliveries, then it is possible, under Amendment 2 for the employer to prohibit an employee from carrying out these activities because Amendment 2 prohibits driving or operating a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, even when a person is using the drug within the confines of Florida law.
Additionally, while the amendment does not explicitly say whether or not employers are permitted to enforce drug testing policies against medical marijuana users, other states where this question has been raised have found that employees are not protected from drug testing policies, or even from being fired or otherwise disciplined on the basis of such drug tests. While there are states that do protect employees from such employer actions, Florida’s amendment does not explicitly create such a protection.
Does the ADA protect employees now that medical marijuana is legal in Florida?
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for employees and prospective employees who have a known disability. However, this law has not protected medical marijuana using employees in other states.
Do I have to tell my employer about my prescription?
Nothing in Amendment 2 requires employer notification. Of course, whether or not your employer is aware of your prescription, if operating vehicles is a part of your job, you will be in violation of the law if you do operate a vehicle while using medical marijuana.
If you have been prescribed medical marijuana and are wondering how it could impact your employment, contact an experienced attorney to discuss your rights and the steps you can take to protect yourself.