With changing cannabis laws across the country, many individuals who use the plant for medical purposes find themselves asking “can my employer fire me for having a medical marijuana card?” New legislation in Missouri offers some protections for medical cannabis users, here’s what you need to know about your rights.

States across the country are wrangling with the legal ramifications of cannabis legalization and the unexpected nuances that accompany a rapidly changing industry landscape. Cannabis is now legal for medicinal use in 37 states and recreationally in 19 states. In 17 states, including several Republican strongholds, either lawmakers or courts have established laws that protect employees from discrimination or adverse consequences for using medical marijuana, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. States must take this issue into their own hands, given the lack of protection at the federal level.

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees from being fired or penalized on the basis of drug addiction or alcoholism, but it does not apply to medical marijuana because of its Schedule I status. Currently, a worker who takes methadone, a powerful opioid, to treat a heroin addiction is covered under the ADA, but a worker who uses medical marijuana to treat a heroin addiction is not protected. 

Medical cannabis protections in Missouri

Amendment 3 provides some protection for employees with valid medical marijuana cards.

In Missouri, voters just legalized marijuana for adult use in a landmark movement. This new legislation also addresses employment discrimination for use of the plant.  Amendment 3 adds a provision preventing an employer from discriminating against, or firing, an employee with a medical marijuana identification card because he or she:

(1) possesses a medical marijuana identification card (whether for the employee or someone in the employee’s care);

(2) lawfully uses marijuana off the employer’s premises during nonworking hours; or

(3) tests positive for marijuana unless the employee used, possessed, or was under the influence of marijuana while working.

In Missouri, it’s legal for a job application to ask about an applicant’s criminal history. However, a major provision of Amendment 3 expunges the criminal history records (including arrest, plea, conviction, and sentence) for certain marijuana-related offenses. This means employers cannot require people to acknowledge the existence of, or answer any questions about, their expunged record.

Workplace risks for medical marijuana users in Missouri

This legislation does not protect an employee with a valid patient ID card who uses, possesses, or is under the influence of medical marijuana while working on the employer’s premises or during work hours. In addition, employers may take disciplinary action against an employee whose lawful, off-duty use of marijuana affects that employee’s ability to perform job-related responsibilities or affects the safety of others.

Given this new legislation, it’s safe to say many Missouri employers will need to embrace new policies around employee hiring and firing based on medical marijuana use.

For Missouri residents interested in applying for a medical card, greenpass connects you with a physician–founded digital health network that provides innovative care solutions to patients. You can meet with a doctor from your phone, laptop, or tablet. Click here to learn more and apply for a medical marijuana card.

Changes to Louisiana marijuana legislation

Louisiana is also taking up the issue. Three subcommittees of the Employment and Medical Marijuana Task Force met to take up the issue on Tuesday, October 19th. With workforce numbers declining, the state does not want to see more willing workers be forced out of the job market due to medicinal use of marijuana. Louisiana’s task force, created through a study resolution authored by Rep. Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans, is looking at those states’ laws to draft proposals for the Louisiana Legislature to consider. 

What to expect in 2023

With additional issues to be considered like workers compensation and insurance implications, greenpass will continue to monitor these legal nuances as they come to the surface.

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