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Can I Get Fired for Being a Medical Marijuana Patient?


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Since many states have legalized medical and recreational marijuana in recent years, many employees wonder if they are protected from getting fired for consuming cannabis. Although employers have every right to terminate an employee if he/she is under the influence of pot while performing job duties, what about off-duty use?

Thirty-three states and Washington D.C. have legalized medical marijuana. State residents who have been diagnosed with a qualifying health condition may register for a medical marijuana card from a certified physician.

There are several states such as Arizona, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Delaware that have employment protections for medical marijuana users. Employees in these states are protected from being terminated or otherwise discriminated against for being a registered medical marijuana patient or failing a drug test due to off-duty use.

By contrast, there are other states with medical marijuana laws that allow employers to fire employees who use cannabis outside of work. This is mainly because federal law still considers pot to be a highly addictive and dangerous substance.

Medical Marijuana Laws in Texas

The Compassionate Use Act (CUA) legalized limited medicinal use and distribution of cannabis in Texas. Only individuals suffering from intractable epilepsy qualify for the state medical marijuana program. In addition, low-THC cannabis cannot contain any more than 10 percent CBD and .05 percent THC.

While courts have often ruled that employers can fire employees for failing a drug test due to off-the-clock conduct, Texas Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) William G. Newchurch had a different decision in a 2017 ruling. In a case involving public school teacher Maryam Roland, the judge ruled that she shouldn’t be fired after testing positive for marijuana she consumed while vacationing in Colorado, where recreational use of marijuana is legal. While this ruling wasn’t legally binding, Texas employers should be careful when thinking about fire an employee in this situation.

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees with disabilities and requires them to offer reasonable accommodations for qualifying individuals. But when it comes to medical marijuana, individuals using illegal drugs—based on federal laws—are not qualified as disabled individuals. Likewise, the Texas Labor and Human Resources Codes also believe no accommodations should be made for medical marijuana users.

For more information about wrongful termination, contact our Houston legal team at Shellist Lazarz Slobin and schedule a consultation today by calling (713) 352-3433.

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