Employers Could Fire or Not Hire For Legal Marijuana Use

Employers Could Fire or Not Hire For Legal Marijuana Use

Martín Di Felice

Palm Desert, CA

Recreational and medical marijuana is now legal in the state of California, but if an employer does not want weed in the work place, they could still fire or not hire a person for having marijuana in their system. "If you’re using marijuana, you’re not safe. Just because you have that card, it doesn’t protect you from the employer saying you’re fired or not hired," said Kevin Odenbaugh, the owner of Forensic Drug Testing Services in Palm Desert.

Related: Recreational Marijuana Sales Become Legal

Odenabaugh says the law does not protect employees who smoke marijuana because it is still federally illegal. Because of that, most companies will still test for it. "We had a couple of companies that jumped the gun that said, ‘You know what it’s legal, let’s stop testing for it,’ until they heard about the liability exposure that they are putting themselves into, similar to allowing alcohol in the workplace," Odenbaugh said. 

Related: Marijuana Dispensary Owners Struggle To Deposit Cash

Attorney Karen Sloat said the bottom line is an employer could fire an employee for being impaired, even if he or she has a medical marijuana card. "Medical marijuana is kind of an open question right now, still the worker cannot be impaired in the workplace, if the worker is going to use medical marijuana it cannot impair their performance of job functions," Sloat explained. 

Related: Recreational Marijuana Prompts Questions About The Need For Medical Prescriptions

Labor Lawyer Michael Harrington said the best way to protect yourself is to do your homework. "A good thing to find out is some background information about the company, just like they’re going to find out about you. What are their policies regarding marijuana?" Harrington suggested. Harrington said some companies are more lenient about the use of marijuana than others. "But you need to find out because you can get fired or lose a job opportunity by admitting to the use of marijuana or having it come up in a physical examination or drug test"