Marijuana laws have changed drastically throughout the country in the past several years, and many people are attempting to reconcile state laws with the federal government’s Schedule I classification of marijuana and employee codes of conduct for various employers. Some Florida residents may wonder if they can lose their jobs for legally consuming cannabis with a valid medical card. The vote to approve medical marijuana passed with an overwhelming majority of more than 70% of voters voting in favor of medical marijuana, but the new laws have caused problems for a few Floridians so far.
Even though several states have legalized medical cannabis and even recreational cannabis for adults, it is still illegal according to the federal government. Additionally, some types of employment are contingent upon an applicant passing a drug test. Even though a medical marijuana card should exempt an employee from a positive test result for marijuana, an employer may still fire an employee on the grounds of a failed drug test. Only about a dozen states have enacted laws that prevent employers from firing employees for off-duty cannabis use or testing positive for cannabis consumed off the clock. Maine is the only state that has protected off-duty recreational marijuana use.
Federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance gives American employers a lot of latitude when it comes to dealing with employee marijuana use. Some state courts have overturned wrongful termination lawsuits made by employees fired for using legally prescribed cannabis and failing drug tests.
In Florida, an individual with a qualifying condition can apply for a medical marijuana card. The card allows the individual to buy, possess, and use marijuana in accordance with state guidelines. For example, an applicant must secure a physician’s certification stating that he or she has a qualifying condition and the doctor must provide evidence or professional advice that indicates the patient could benefit from medical cannabis.
Under Florida’s Amendment 2, medical marijuana cardholders may carry up to a 70-day supply of medical cannabis at any time as long as they keep it in the original packaging. The amendment limits purchases to no more than a 70-day supply at one time. Florida dispensaries may only sell marijuana flower in sealed, tamper-proof containers intended for vaporization devices, and state law still prohibits smoking marijuana.
Driving under the influence of marijuana is still illegal in Florida and carries a first-time punishment of up to six months in jail and fines up to $1,000. It’s also possible for an employee driving for work to incur a DUI charge for using medical cannabis on the job. State law also prohibits growing marijuana for personal use or exporting marijuana purchased in Florida to other states.
If you are a medical cannabis user in Florida, know that employers generally have the right to fire you for failing a required drug test. Some employers may be more understanding of your situation than others. Since no anti-discrimination laws are in place for cannabis users in Florida, it’s possible for an employer to fire an employee for testing positive for cannabis. It is not legal however, to discriminate against an employee for a protected status. For example, if an employee has a medical marijuana card for cancer, the employer could not fire the employee simply based on his or her diagnosis. Unfortunately, failing a required drug test could be the legal loophole an employer needs to fire such an employee.
Any Florida workers with questions about medical marijuana should reach out to experienced employment law attorneys and other professionals with experience with Florida’s marijuana laws. Most courts in the country have upheld employers’ rights to fire employees for testing positive for marijuana due to the drug’s Schedule I federal classification. It is unclear how this situation will evolve, but Florida employees who use medical marijuana should do so knowing the associated risks.