Can I Use Medical Marijuana at Work in California?

medical marijuana workplace

For the last 25 years, states across the country have been slowly legalizing medical marijuana.

California led the way by, passing the Compassionate Use Act in 1996, and since then, medicinal marijuana laws in California have served as a model for other states.

However, it is essential to understand that possession of marijuana remains a federal crime.

Therefore, many employees wonder whether they are protected from being fired for smoking pot. 

In nearly all states, employers may be free to fire employees for being under the influence of performance-altering substances at work.

These substances can include alcohol, marijuana, and illegal drugs.

But what about the gray area of medical marijuana at work? Our team at Starpoint Law, LC, will walk you through the ins and outs of medical marijuana at work for California employees. Contact us to get started today.

Medicinal Marijuana Laws in California

California voters legalized medical marijuana by ballot proposition in 1996. Since then, medical marijuana card-carrying users have been able to legally purchase and use pot under California law.

If you have a concern about your medical marijuana status as it relates to your employment, contact an experienced employment lawyer right away.

Medical Marijuana Use

California laws on medical marijuana and work have not evolved consistently with each other over the last 25 years. As previously mentioned, California medicinal marijuana laws legalized the use of marijuana for pain and other disabilities in 1996. 

However, a landmark court ruling in 2008 clearly stated that employers are not required to accommodate medical marijuana use.

Even if medical marijuana is being used to treat a major injury or disability, the law does not require an employer to accommodate this the way they must accommodate some disabilities.

The court stated that federal law prohibited marijuana use. Therefore, the court reasoned, an employer could not be forced to break the law.

Since 2008, California state lawmakers have tried several times to change California laws on medical marijuana and work.

They attempted to change the law so that it would protect medical users from discrimination. So far, each of those attempts has failed.

Drug Testing

Often, an employer doesn’t know you use medical marijuana unless you disclose that fact. The only other way to find out your status is to make you take a drug test.

California laws on medical marijuana and work have little to say about employer drug testing. Usually, requesting a drug test for a conditional offer of employment is legal.

California employment laws try to balance an employee’s expectation of privacy with an employer’s need to have a safe workplace. 

Typically, California employers can conduct random drug screenings of employees if they have clear policies in place. The law may also permit random drug screenings if an employer meets any of the following criteria:

  • The employee appeared to be high or otherwise impaired at work;
  • The employee holds a safety-related position; or
  • The employee caused a workplace accident involving persons or property.

There may be other circumstances where an employer would have a right to legally drug test an employee.

If you’re worried about being targeted for drug testing because the employer suspects you use medical marijuana, contact an employment lawyer right away.

Employment Discrimination Against Medicinal Marijuana Users

Medicinal marijuana laws in California have changed lives and freed disabled individuals from the pain and effects of some chronic conditions.

However, because employment law has not kept up with the decriminalization of marijuana use, employment discrimination against medicinal marijuana users is rampant.

If you’re concerned that your valid prescription for medical marijuana is impacting your employment, contact an employment lawyer for help.

How an Employment Law Attorney at Starpoint Law, LC Can Help

The team at Starpoint Law, LC has extensive experience with employment discrimination. We’ve worked with many discrimination victims, and we know how to fight for the workplace rights you deserve.

Contact us today to discuss your case. Your first consultation is always free.

Author Photo

Aidin Ghavimi

Aidin is a partner at Starpoint LC, Attorneys at Law, and focuses on personal injury and employment law cases in and around Southern California. He earned his Juris Doctorate from the Loyola School of Law and his Bachelor’s from USC. Aidin’s primary goal is to bring justice to his clients and to ensure they are able to move on with their lives after a serious injury.

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