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Medical marijuana & the workplace: Common sense applied

| Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Reuters photo
Reuters photo

Ironing out a new wrinkle in existing law under states' legalization of medical marijuana, a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling sets forth a principle that Pennsylvania should heed as it implements legalization: Employees can't be summarily fired just for using marijuana prescribed by a doctor.

The Bay State's chief justice wrote that “the use and possession of medically prescribed marijuana by a qualifying patient is as lawful as the use and possession of any other prescribed medication,” The Boston Globe reports. The ruling came in a discrimination lawsuit filed by a woman with Crohn's disease who uses prescribed marijuana at night to stimulate her appetite and claims she disclosed her legal, medicinal use in job interviews but was fired after one day's work for failing a drug test.

The employer claims marijuana's federal illegality justified her firing and that allowing her off-the-job medicinal use would exceed anti-discrimination laws' “reasonable accommodation” requirements. But this ruling, which returned her case to a lower court for further review, still allows employers to bar legal medical-marijuana patients from jobs under federal contracts or involving tasks that pose safety risks from many medications' potential impairment.

That's fair — part of treating legal medical marijuana like any other prescription drug. Pennsylvania should consider legislation to codify that principle in the workplace, minimizing litigation such as this Massachusetts case.

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