Medical Marijuana – Major State Cannabis Laws Affecting Employers

Several states have legalized the use of medical and recreational cannabis for adults. In addition, some of these states have provided protections for workers that use cannabis as well. As such, employers should review the laws in their local area before creating or revising policies for their workplaces. Here are some things to consider when making these policies.


Here is an example detailing the importance of knowing a state’s protection laws for marijuana use. In Connecticut, a plaintiff sued a prospective employer after they refused to hire her over her medical marijuana usage. The U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut affirmed the plaintiff as a prospective employee diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Furthermore, they also noted that she did qualify as a patient under Connecticut’s Palliative Use of Marijuana Act (PUMA).

Originally, the suit alleged that the defendant denied her employment due to a positive result for cannabis on a pre-employment drug test. According to the case, this action violated Connecticut’s Palliative Use of Marijuana Act. However, the defendant removed the case to federal court. 

The defendant then moved for the case’s dismissal, claiming a failure to state a claim. However, the federal court held that the Controlled Substances Act, the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and the Americans with Disability Act do not preempt the anti-discrimination employment provision of PUMA.

The federal court also held that the anti-discrimination provision in PUMA has an implied private right of action. Furthermore, the federal court decided the prospective employer did not qualify for exemption from the anti-discrimination employment provision in PUMA. Additionally, they found that PUMA’s anti-discrimination employment provision does not violate the Equal Protection Clause.

New York

Another example of protection laws for marijuana usage involves New York. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act amended Section 201-D of the New York Labor Law. This amendment legalized cannabis use as a consumable product, stipulating that usage complied with state laws. Due to this amendment, employers cannot discriminate against employees for using cannabis during non-work hours. Furthermore, the use cannot happen on the employer’s premises and involve the employer’s property or equipment.


In 2010, the Supreme Court of Oregon agreed to hear an appeal concerning an employer that terminated an employee for using medical marijuana. The employee sued the employer, claiming discrimination against them due to their disability. However, the Supreme Court disagreed. The Court found that the employment discrimination laws in Oregon did not require the plaintiff’s employer to accommodate an employee’s medical marijuana usage.


In Missouri, Amendment Three passed, legalizing recreational marijuana for adults. However, it does not ban employers from restricting marijuana use in the workplace, such as working while intoxicated. However, it does provide increased protection for individuals using medical marijuana. These individuals must have a valid medical marijuana card to meet the protection requirements.

Furthermore, the amendment offers some exceptions. For example, companies that would violate Department of Transportation regulations by allowing medical marijuana usage fall in the exempt category. Furthermore, the amendment does not protect medical marijuana users who use, possess, or act under the influence at work or during working hours.

Final Thoughts

The laws concerning marijuana use continuously change, requiring employers to review the laws regularly to avoid penalties and potential lawsuits. Periodically reviewing the regulations will prove particularly crucial during the hiring process, such as drug testing and background screening. The best way to ensure compliance with laws regarding background screening is to partner with a background check company you can trust to keep up with all of the latest developments.

Keep your business up to date on new laws and regulations with Pre-employ’s free news resources. Contact a sales rep today.


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