Washington Medical Marijuana :: Why Should You Have to Pass a Drug Test?


Washington voters approved medical marijuana in 1998, but state law is vague on whether employees can be fired for legally using cannabis. Nearly 15 years after voters legalized medicinal pot, that question is likely to be resolved by the Washington Supreme Court.

The case involves a woman fired by a telemarketing company in 2006 because she had failed a pre-employment drug screen, showing cannabinoids from the marijuana she legally used with a doctor’s authorization.

In rather typical fashion, the call center offered no evidence that marijuana use impaired the employee’s ability to work.

Such use of marijuana is unreservedly protected in Washington medical marijuana law, according to the attorney representing the fired employee. “It would flabbergast the average voter to think, ‘I’ve been given this right but can be fired for it anyway,” said the attorney.

Similar cases in other states, including Oregon, Michigan, and California, among others have been decided in favor of businesses who had fired employees for medical marijuana use.

Washington business groups are watching this case, worried that the court could potentially define medical marijuana use as a disability and consequently shield patients from being fired for it.

The initiative passed by voters in 1998 included a clause noting the law did not demand “any accommodation of any medical use of marijuana in any place of employment.”

However, the Washington Legislature amended that clause in 2007 to read, “any on-site medical use.” But the law said nothing about use outside work or during off-hours, so there is still indecision about the meaning.

The issue of medical marijuana in the work place and having to pass a drug test most commonly in the area of pre-employment and second most often in the arena of random drug testing after being hired. Countless employers also conduct drug tests “for cause,” such as observable impairment, or after an on-the-job accident, especially when workman’s compensation claims are involved.

Numerous large companies in Washington, including Microsoft and the University of Washington, don’t routinely drug test new hires unless the jobs are involved in security industries, or involve operating a vehicle. Other large employers, including Boeing, do expect all employees to pass a drug test.​

A 2006 survey by human resources managers found that just under 85% of companies drug test new employees. Additionally, just under half of those conduct random drug tests on employees who already work for the company without notice and without real cause.

Many companies with prescription drug policies will ban all marijuana use, even in places where it is legal for medicinal purposes… while typically excusing prescription drug use of any kind as long as the user has been prescribed. Interesting.

Leave a comment here if you think this is a double standard and tell me how you feel about the rights of medical marijuana patients in the workplace.



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