Can I be fired for being a medical marijuana patient in Florida?
If you are considering becoming an MMJ patient, or are already a qualified patient in the state of Florida, you might be wondering how being a patient can impact employment. While you might be a legal medical marijuana patient in Florida, you’d be surprised to learn that due to medical marijuana being federally illegal in the United States, your workplace can still enforce a drug-free policy, including those who are cannabis users. According to Florida Statute 381.986 on the Medical Use of Marijuana, your employer can establish or enforce a drug-free workplace and is not required to accommodate to your medical marijuana use.
While you aren’t protected by the law, this shouldn’t prevent you from discussing workplace policies with your employer if you feel comfortable enough to do so. Florida Statute 381.986 outlines that your employer has the option to choose whether to allow you to use medical marijuana. This means that they can decide whether to uphold a drug-free workplace, or implement policies that allow medical marijuana use among employees. If you are a Florida MMJ patient, and are employed or considering employment, there are a few topics that you should discuss with your employer or potential employer.
Know Your Employer
We encourage our patients to have an open dialogue with their employers regarding drug-free workplace policies. Again, this is something that should be done only if you feel comfortable enough to do so, as you are under no obligation to disclose being a medical marijuana patient. Know what your workplace drug policies are and ask where they stand on medical marijuana use as opposed to recreational use. Sometimes it may help to explain the situation to your employer. Many of our patients suffer from seizures, the effects of cancer treatments, are on opioids or other drugs that may affect their work. Letting your employer know that medical marijuana may improve your work performance may help reconsider their stance on medical marijuana. If they have a workplace drug policy, they could be open to excluding those with a medical recommendation. If your place of employment requires a doctor’s note from your physician stating you have been approved to use medical marijuana, this can be easily obtained. If your workplace does not have a drug policy, it could still be helpful to know where they stand specifically on medical marijuana patients. It could be beneficial to you and others to establish a workplace drug policy with your employer that helps protect medical marijuana patients.
Ask for Guidelines
If your employer is willing to discuss guidelines for use, ask questions regarding when and where you can consume medical marijuana. Some employers might ask that you only use marijuana off-duty and come to work sober, or that you not use products a specific number of hours prior to your shift. Did you know that qualified patients in Florida can consume medical marijuana products at work if their employer approves it? If your employer is open to discussing their marijuana drug policy, ask for clear guidelines on what they deem as acceptable usage. Your employer might ask for a designated area where it is acceptable and not acceptable to use your medication. Some might approve vaping and oppose smoking at work, or they might only allow it in the form of tinctures or creams. It’s important to know where your employer stands so that you can respect their policies.
Will Policies Improve?
As more states legalize medical and recreational marijuana, we may find that employers will start to adjust their drug policies to accommodate employees that are qualified patients. While the state of Florida does not protect medical marijuana users, there are a growing amount of states that now include protecting patients from what is known as “off-duty marijuana use.” Patients may find that more states over time could start to be on their side as medical marijuana becomes more mainstream. Two court cases in Connecticut have already ruled that employees who are qualified medical marijuana patients should not be discriminated against so long as they are not consuming marijuana during work hours. Another bill in Rhode Island is questioning whether medical marijuana cardholders that have been fired or denied employement are being discriminated against by employers.
Overtime, it may become more difficult for employers to turn away or fire skilled employees simply because they consume medical marijuana products. It may be challenging to retain employees who fear repercussions when they can find employment that approves of medical marijuana use. Rather than potential candidates being turned away for consuming marijuana products, candidates may begin turning away employers for having policies that do not accommodate to medical marijuana patients. If you are a medical marijuana patient who is looking for employment, make sure to research the company’s drug policy. During an interview, after confidently detailing why you could be the right candidate to hire, you might want to ask what their company drug policy is and where medical marijuana patients stand. While it may seem bold to disclose to a potential employer that you use medical marijuana, if they require a drug test for employment, not disclosing this information and failing a drug test could come across as dishonest.
Ultimately, the choice to disclose being a medical marijuana patient to your employer or potential employer is your choice and yours alone. We can’t say for certain where your employer might stand on the subject, and there are no guarantees on if your employer will be for or against medical marijuana use in the workplace. It’s possible that as the medical marijuana program develops in Florida, eventually we could join states such as Connecticut, Arizona, Delaware, Maine and others that protect medical marijuana users from workplace discrimination.