Minnesota recently became the 22nd state to legalize medical marijuana use and, as part of the new law, to enact new potential employment protections for registered users of medical marijuana. Minnesota's new marijuana law has already gone into effect, but distribution of marijuana for medical purposes is not expected until July 1, 2015. Employers should use this extra time to familiarize themselves with Minnesota's new law and its potential implications. While the new Minnesota law purports to impose some new employment law obligations on employers, it also raises many unanswered questions. Because marijuana use is still illegal criminal activity under federal law, it is currently unclear if Minnesota courts will strictly enforce the new state law against employers or whether the federal law criminalizing all marijuana use will trump the new state law.
- First, an employer can penalize a registry patient for a positive marijuana drug test if the patient used, possessed, or was impaired by medical cannabis on the premises of the place of employment or during the hours of employment. Because marijuana can stay in someone's system for some time after use, however, it may be difficult for an employer to establish whether an employee used medical marijuana or was impaired at the office or during working hours.
- Second, the new law permits adverse action against a patient on the state registry if the failure to act "would violate federal law or regulations or cause an employer to lose a monetary or licensing-related benefit under federal law or regulations."
Impact on Other Laws
Uncertainty in Light of Federal Law
As medical marijuana begins to be distributed in the state, employers should stay tuned to see how the courts interpret Minnesota's new medical marijuana law especially in light of the continued federal prohibition on marijuana use.
As a former recruiter, Pamela Kovacs brings a unique insight into her work in employment and labor law, including having advised clients in the areas of discipline and discharge, employee handbooks, wage and hour, professional ...
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