Last June, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill into law that explains how patients can receive medical marijuana under Florida’s related amendment from 2016. Amendment 2, Florida’s “medical marijuana law” passed with 71% of the vote and took effect January 3, 2017. The amendment required lawmakers to come up with a description of how patients can qualify and receive medical marijuana by July 3, 2017. The Tampa employment attorneys at Florin Gray Bouzas Owens, LLC explains what new marijuana laws could mean for you.
Since the passing of the amendment in Florida, employers have worried about what it could mean for drug use in the workplace. Legalizing medical marijuana might have meant that employers have to permit employees to come to work under the influence. Luckily for employers, this is not the case. Gov. Rick Scott’s bill addresses many questions employers have had since the constitutional amendment in 2016.
The medical marijuana amendment to Florida’s law still preserves employers’ rights to enforce drug-free workplace policies. Despite patients being able to legally qualify and receive medical marijuana, if their employer enforces a drug-free environment, the patient won’t be able to work. The amendment does not limit an employer’s ability to “establish, continue, or enforce a drug-free policy.” It does not make it mandatory for employers to accommodate patients receiving medical marijuana or working under the influence of marijuana. The section also states that it does not “create a cause of action against an employer for discrimination or wrongful discharge.”
Therefore, under Florida’s new medical marijuana law, nothing in the workplace has to change at all if the employer wishes to maintain a drug-free environment. It is up to each individual employer to enforce or maintain a no-marijuana workplace, since the law does not require employers to allow marijuana use for patients. Florida employers have a degree of protection if they do not want employees under the influence at work. While court challenges may arise, employers are generally safe since the law doesn’t require accommodation for medical marijuana users.
According to the new medical marijuana law, patients with certain conditions can now legally obtain cannabis for medical reasons. Patients must have a “qualifying condition” to receive medical marijuana. Conditions include cancer, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, seizures, and terminal illness.
Since the passing of the new law, employers and employees have wondered what it might mean for drug use in the workplace. The answer? Not much, thanks to the section not granting employees the right to use marijuana at work if an employer has a policy against it.
If an employee qualifies for legal marijuana use, he or she must still obey an employer’s rules for using drugs at work or having marijuana in the system. If an employer wishes to maintain or implement drug testing rules prior to hiring an employee, he or she has this right. An employee that does not pass the drug test, regardless of the legalization of the drug, cannot sue the employer for discrimination based on medical marijuana use. However, there is still the possibility of the courts ruling in favor of employees in lawsuits regarding medical marijuana.
In May 2017, a case in the Rhode Island Superior Court came out in favor of an employee who brought a suit against an employer that didn’t hire her because she tested positive for marijuana. The courts held that the employer violated Rhode Island’s medical marijuana law, and allowed the plaintiff to proceed with a disability discrimination claim, despite marijuana use still being illegal in federal law.
Florida’s laws are different from Rhode Island’s, but there is still a chance of similar litigation and rulings in the Sunshine State regarding employees and marijuana. Only time will tell what the new law will do to Florida’s workplaces.
The Tampa employment attorneys at Florin Gray Bouzas Owens, LLC can help you with any situation where you feel that you were treated unfairly in the workplace. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.
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