Do Employees Who Use Medical Marijuana Have Any Legal Protections?

Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana is now legal in some form in more than two-thirds of the country, including Georgia, but the laws governing its use are not necessarily in agreement with the laws concerning employee protections for medical marijuana use.

Unlike many other states, Georgia’s employment laws tend to favor the rights of the employer over the rights of the employee, and this has the potential to cause legal problems for any medical marijuana users in the state. So what protections, if any, do employees who use medical marijuana have in Georgia if their employer doesn’t wish them to? Read on to find out more.

Georgia’s Medical Marijuana Laws

In April 2015, Governor Nathan Deal signed House Bill 1, or the Haleigh’s Hope Act, into state law, which permits the use of low-concentration THC oil for treating certain illnesses, such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn’s disease.

In May of 2018, the list of diseases treatable with medical marijuana was expanded with House Bill 65, increasing the number of possible patients that could access the drug. Later still, in 2019, House Bill 324 was passed, which allows for the production and dispensing of low THC oil in Georgia.

The problem is these laws did little to protect medical marijuana users from discrimination at the workplace. In fact, they strengthened the protections for employers that wish to adhere to a strict no-tolerance policy for marijuana, either on or off-duty. The language of the law states:

“Nothing in this article shall require an employer to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale or growing of marijuana in any form, or to affect the ability of an employer to have a written zero tolerance policy prohibiting the on-duty, and off-duty, use of marijuana, or prohibiting any employee from having a detectable amount of marijuana in such employee’s system while at work.”

Are Employees in Georgia Permitted to Possess and Use Marijuana at Work?

Not necessarily. The medical marijuana laws in place in Georgia allow someone suffering from one of the approved conditions stated in the law to possess up to 20 ounces of low-concentration THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) oil on their person. Whether or not they are allowed to possess or use the drug at work depends on the policies of the employer.

Employers are allowed to enforce a written no-tolerance policy, but they are also still required to follow other Georgia state laws regarding the provision of reasonable accommodations for an employee’s underlying medical condition.

Can an Employee Be Terminated for Using Medical Marijuana?

Currently, yes, an employee in Georgia can be terminated for violating a no-tolerance policy in the workplace by using marijuana either on or off-duty. However, with medical and recreational marijuana growing in popularity, it’s likely this law will be challenged soon as it has already been in other states.

States are divided on the issue, with some state supreme courts in favor of employee’s rights, such as Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and some in favor of employer’s rights, such as California and Washington.

Marijuana is still a Schedule 1 controlled substance, meaning it is illegal under federal law, but the rapid adoption of medical and recreational marijuana laws across the country means that it could only be a matter of time before marijuana laws catch up with employer/employee protections.

Talk to a Georgia Employment Law Attorney Today

If you or someone you love has faced discrimination in the workplace for medical marijuana, call the Georgia employment law attorneys at Vaughn Law Firm today. We specialize in employee’s rights cases in Georgia, and we have years of experience helping people just like you after they were treated unfairly on the job. Call 877-212-8089 today for a free, confidential consultation, and let us help you get back on track after workplace discrimination.