But this is what you can do about it
Marijuana enthusiasts have come a long way, including getting medical marijuana rubberstamped in 33 states across the US. However, even with this remarkable milestone, companies are still screening for marijuana use and employees are facing consequences where applicable. This is a bummer for the pro-legalization efforts, but in case you are a medical marijuana patient, there are a number of things you can do to avoid getting in the bad books of an employer.
Which states are lenient with marijuana use?
In June 2019, Nevada and New York banned pre-employment marijuana testing and the discrimination of medical marijuana patients based on previous use of marijuana. Of course, this does not permit employees to show up at work when high on potent weed, not at all. The aim, as they say, is to protect the rights of medical marijuana patients.
Medicinal cannabis is legal in both Nevada and New York, but Nevada has legalized recreational cannabis as well. Other cannabis-friendly states are also making an effort to hold to account employers on the issue of employee marijuana use. Previously, Maine was the first to ban employers from discriminating against medical marijuana patients. This is what the law in Maine has to say:
“An employer may not refuse to employ or otherwise penalize a person solely for that person’s status as a qualifying (medical marijuana) patient…”
In July 2019, New Jersey amended its cannabis laws and gave more protection to medical marijuana patients as employees. The bill prohibits employers against taking severe action against medical marijuana patients but still does not allow the use of marijuana in the workplace.
As of August 2019, residents of Oklahoma will enjoy protection under the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana and Patient Protection Act. Employees will no longer be discriminated against based on their medical marijuana status.
Which states are not lenient with medical marijuana use?
Eleven states plus the District of Columbia have legalized recreation of marijuana, with Illinois the latest addition to this list. Twenty-two other states have legalized medical marijuana, making the total cannabis-accommodating states at 33.
Even among the states that have allowed cannabis use, pre-employment drug testing still goes on. Under federal law, marijuana is still illegal in the United States and employers could be using this as an excuse to keep their institutions “drug-free.”
Apart from New York, Maine, and Nevada, most other states are carrying on with pre-employment drug screening. This is disheartening for medical marijuana patients who expected to get a break with the legalization of cannabis. It appears that the same law that granted them rights to be acknowledged as patients cannot grant them protection as medical patients.
What are marijuana pre-employment tests?
Pre-employment drug tests usually screen for a number of prohibited substances, including marijuana. Standard tests come in panels of 5, 10, and 15, and THC features in all three panels. THC is the psychoactive component found in cannabis. It has psychoactive and mild psychedelic effects and is actually the compound that makes cannabis illegal.
Marijuana pre-employment tests are screens that detect for the presence of THC in a sample, mostly commonly urine. A test is considered positive when THC is over 50 nanograms per milliliter of urine (cut-off level).
Some companies have changed their pre-employment drug tests to accommodate medical marijuana patients, but the vast majority have not. Companies may want to discourage recreational use of cannabis or they may want to prevent cannabis-related accidents at the workplace. Whatever the case, this leaves legitimate medical marijuana patients out in the cold.
What to do to pass a drug test
If you are a medical marijuana patient living in a state where it is legal, there are a few things you can do to avoid jeopardizing your chances with your employer. Here is a brief overview:
- Find out the company policy on medical marijuana
Before you jump into conclusions, find out whether your employer reprimands for marijuana use. Some companies are lenient about the use of cannabis for medical purposes and will not mete out wrath if they find out about your marijuana use.
- Stop taking your cannabis meds a few days before marijuana screening
If you are applying for a new job and suspect that you will be forced to do a drug test, withhold your meds for about ten days before taking the test. THC lasts in your body for about a week, though this may vary depending on the frequency of use, body fat, and exercise levels. Withholding marijuana use for about ten days, though, should help clear THC from your system and hence pass a pre-employment drug test.
- Equip yourself with legal information
As mentioned above, many states are warming up to the acceptance of medical marijuana. Some employers, though, blatantly refuse to adhere to the law regarding the protection of medical marijuana patients. Now that you are a medical marijuana patient, there is no better time to get acquainted with the laws that are there to protect you. Should you get discriminated against based on your cannabis status, be prepared to put up a fight. Approach your employer with facts and argue your case, bearing in mind that you will not be the first to win such a case.
- Avoid drug screens and altering your samples
You will find this recommended in many blogs, but doing so may jeopardize your chances of employment should you be found out. There is nothing wrong about being a bona fide medical marijuana patient, but trying to manipulate results is criminal and subject to a penalty. Ignore the urge to “prove your innocence,” and let the law fight for you.
What happens if you fail a marijuana pre-employment test?
If you try all the tips mentioned above and still fail, all hope is not lost. If you fail the test and your appeal doesn’t get through, exercising patience is the next thing. This may mean waiting for favorable laws in your state that will guarantee your protection as a medical marijuana patient. If things continue as they are, this should not take long. As long as you did not attempt to “fool the system,” chances are that the employer will have no reason to bar you from employment when the law is in your favor. But this may also mean that you try other opportunities as you wait for the tides to change.
Being a medical marijuana patient is not a crime, and neither is it something to be discriminated against. Unfortunately, years of cannabis prohibition have made it what it is: a taboo and shame. Pro-cannabis groups are working hard to change the perceptions of people about this matter. We are hopeful that their efforts will bear fruit sooner rather than later.
- Natlawreview (2019): Courts Are Siding with Employees Who Use Medical Marijuana. Retrieved from https://www.natlawreview.com/article/courts-are-siding-employees-who-use-medical-marijuana
- NORML: https://norml.org/
- NELIS (2019): https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/80th2019/Bill/6191/Overview
- New York City Council (2019): https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3860393&GUID=7040463F-8170-471C-97EC-A61AE7B1AA2F&Options=&Search=
- Maine Department of Labor pdf: https://www.maine.gov/labor/labor_laws/publications/2018/MDOL_Guide_to_marijuana_in_the_workplace_March_2018.pdf
- State of New Jersey (2019): Governor Murphy Signs Legislation to Dramatically Reform New Jersey’s Medical Marijuana Program, Expand Patient Access. https://www.nj.gov/governor/news/news/562019/approved/20190702d.shtml
- Oklahoma State Legislature. http://oklegislature.gov/BillInfo.aspx?Bill=HB2612