High Risk Employment: The Management Headache Over Medical Marijuana

23 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2012 Last revised: 27 Mar 2012

Date Written: November 1, 2011


Legalization of medical marijuana is a growing trend among states: 16 states and DC have medical marijuana laws, 13 states have decriminalized possession of small amounts, and 80% of Americans support allowance of medical marijuana to treat pain, this article notes. Based on this trend, it seems employees using marijuana with a valid prescription would have protection; If it is legal in my state, medical marijuana must be treated like any other prescription drug, right? Wrong, this paper shows. Courts have made it clear that, so far, there is no protection for employees who fail their company’s drug test because they tested positive for marijuana they use pursuant to state law. By looking at various cases on both the state and Federal level, this article outlines this tension and the ensuing confusion it causes both employees and employers.

The article also points towards likely future trends in court decisions and illuminates two seminal, dissenting Federal arguments that might provide useful guidelines for managers. Some employers want to accommodate marijuana and create workplace policies that reflect a new view of off-duty use of medical marijuana. The courts may have given management a blueprint for an effective workplace drug policy that allowed for some medical marijuana use. But whether these guidelines can adequately and appropriately address the very real concerns for employers about drug use in the workplace today remains a decision managers are making on a piecemeal basis.

Suggested Citation

Chang, Kabrina Krebel, High Risk Employment: The Management Headache Over Medical Marijuana (November 1, 2011). Boston U. School of Management Research Paper No. 2012-1, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1987608

Kabrina Krebel Chang (Contact Author)

Boston University ( email )

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States
617-353-4154 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://smgapps.bu.edu/mgmt_new/profiles/ChangKabrina.html

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