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How Obtaining a Medical Marijuana Card in Missouri Can Affect Your Employment
Ever since the passing of Missouri's Constitutional Amendment 2, Missouri residents can legally become medical marijuana patients if they've received a medical certification from a state-licensed physician.
But what does this mean for your job if you decide to become a patient? Read on to find out.
Original uncropped image from Laurie Avocado / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)
Most of Missouri's workers are familiar with workplace drug tests. In the past, if you were to test positive for the use of marijuana or any scheduled substance, your employer would have just cause for firing you. But medical marijuana is legal now per the Missouri Constitution, so shouldn't it be as legal to use cannabis during off time as it is to use alcohol?
Missouri's Amendment 2 Doesn't Address Drug Testing
Amendment 2 has left a bit of a gray area when it comes to workplace drug testing of medical marijuana patients. While it does prohibit the use of marijuana in the workplace or during work hours, it does not address drug testing, nor does it change any drug testing policies that existed beforehand.
This means that there is nothing in the language of the law that prevents your employer from continuing to conduct pre-employment or workplace drug testing.
Missouri medical marijuana patients should be aware that while their use of marijuana may be legal in the eyes of the law, there's nothing in the language of Amendment 2 or any current court precedents to prohibit your employer from taking adverse action against you after a positive marijuana drug test.
Missouri's Drug Testing Laws for Medical Marijuana Patients
Missouri is one of the few states to have no laws regarding the nature of workplace or pre-employment drug testing. There is nothing in the letter of the law that prohibits your employer from conducting drug tests and/or taking disciplinary action because of the results.
As we mentioned, the Missouri Constitutional Amendment No. 2 also does not address the issue of drug tests in the workplace. This has created a lot of confusion for medical marijuana patients and their employers alike. As of now, employers can still request a drug test from a medical marijuana patient.
While they could, in theory, terminate such an employee if they were to test positive, Missouri residents now have a constitutional right to use medical marijuana if they qualify for the state program. So while Missouri medical marijuana patients do not have any explicit protections against adverse employment actions, their employers may not necessarily take disciplinary actions as soon as they test positive.
This constitutional gray area will undoubtedly lead to legal challenges that will establish some judicial precedents regarding medical marijuana and workplace drug tests. However, as of now, those have yet to play out.
Some Legislators are Seeking to Solidify Missouri Employers' Drug Testing Rights
Meanwhile, Senate Bill 610 is making its way through the Missouri legislature. This bill would give every employer the right to test and fire employees for the use of medical marijuana.
That's not to say that every medical marijuana patient has to constantly worry about losing their job. There are many employers and businesses in Missouri that don't bother conducting marijuana drug tests for several reasons.
Many employers feel as though it's not worth the effort, opens up the business to legal challenges, and/or prevents otherwise qualified candidates from joining their organization. So if you're a medical marijuana patient working for such an employer, you might not have to worry about your marijuana use affecting your employment.
On the reverse side, many employers in Missouri have established drug-free workplaces for their companies. Medical patients should count on such businesses having policies against the use of marijuana.
At the end of the day, Missouri medical marijuana patients must remember that the lack of any Missouri law regarding workplace drug testing gives employers the right to establish their testing policies in any way they wish.
Safety Sensitive Jobs and Medical Marijuana in Missouri
While some employers may choose not to conduct marijuana drug tests at all, others may mandate it because of the work their employees do. Any company whose employees work in "safety-sensitive" positions will almost always require their workers to submit to drug screening before and during their employment. A safety-sensitive position can generally be defined as any job in which job performance has the possibility of affecting the safety of the employee and/or their co-workers.
Workers in such positions, under no circumstances, are allowed to perform their job duties while under the influence of marijuana -- even if they're a medical patient. Amendment 2 includes a provision that states that nothing in the law allows someone to "operate, navigate, or be in actual physical control of any dangerous device or motor vehicle, aircraft, or motorboat while under the influence of marijuana."
Safety-sensitive employers will most likely have blanket policies against any use of marijuana, whether it be during working hours or otherwise. Amendment 2 does not give any of these types of employee protections for using medical marijuana, even if they do qualify for its use under the law.
Missouri's Amendment 2 Also Protects Employers from Lawsuits Related to Drug Testing
Amendment 2 explicitly states that any "employee, former employee, or prospective employee" cannot "bring a claim against any employer, former employer, or prospective employer" for adverse employment actions being taken because of a violation of the employer's policies against working under the influence of marijuana.
Medical marijuana patients should keep in mind that the State of Missouri gives significant liberties to employers when it comes to their drug-testing policies. Patients may find that employers may take a zero-tolerance approach to the use of medical marijuana for the sake of safety standards.
Drug Testing Employees for Medical Marijuana in Missouri
Ultimately, whether a Missouri medical marijuana patient is subject to a drug test or not is up to their employers. At the moment, the State of Missouri doesn't prohibit employers from conducting drug screening of any kind, nor does it prohibit them from taking disciplinary action because of the results of a drug test.
Unfortunately, this applies to medical marijuana patients, as well. Missouri patients should always be aware that their medical use opens them up to the possibility of adverse employment actions being taken against them. This could be especially problematic for workplaces with random drug screening, as marijuana can stay in your system, and be detectable by a test, for days or weeks.
But, again, it just comes down to the individual employer. The state gives employers significant liberty in their workplace policies. So, for instance, there's nothing to stop an employer from allowing their qualified employees to use medical marijuana if they so choose. Also, many businesses in Missouri are doing away with marijuana drug tests entirely.
So, if you're a current or potential medical marijuana patient, and you're wondering about how marijuana could affect your employment, you should inquire about your company's specific drug screening policies..
What About Missouri's Federal Drug-Free Workplaces?
Along with employees in "safety-sensitive" jobs, those Missouri workers in federally regulated or governmental jobs are barred from using medical marijuana. The DEA still considers cannabis a Schedule 1 substance, meaning the Federal Government does not recognize any potential medical use for the substance.
As a result, many workplaces in federal agencies must be completely drug-free per the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988. Any Missouri resident that works in such a workplace cannot use medical marijuana, even if they're qualified patients or have a Missouri Medical Marijuana ID.
However, the Drug-Free Workplace Act doesn't only apply to government workers. Any organization that accepts federal grants or contracts must comply by making their workplaces drug-free. Missouri employees of such companies are also barred from using medical marijuana.
Can Medical Marijuana Patients be Fired in Missouri?
As we've mentioned, there's nothing to stop an employer from firing you if you test positive for the use of medical marijuana in Missouri. Qualified medical marijuana patients should keep in mind that termination following a positive marijuana test could negatively affect their abilities to receive unemployment.
A positive marijuana test following a workplace accident or injury could also prevent an employee from receiving worker's compensation.
Therefore, it's a very good idea to talk to an attorney if you think your rights might be affected by your medical marijunana patient status. Missouri NORML has several very knowledgeable attorneys that can help patients understand their rights.
Getting a Job with a Medical Marijuana Card in Missouri
Getting a job in Missouri with a medical marijuana card certainly isn't impossible, not by any means. Not every employer will require pre-employment drug screenings, nor will every drug screening include the use of marijuana.
Companies are becoming increasingly aware that a zero-tolerance policy towards medical marijuana use isn't necessarily good for business. They know that many otherwise well-qualified candidates could be turned away because of these strict policies.
If you'd like to learn more about how to find a job that doesn't drug test, you can read this post here.