Whiffing and Working

Perhaps the biggest issue in the area of substance abuse this past decade has been the question of whether marijuana should be legalized or not. Some address it as a question of civil liberty, and others are just tired of the fact that making it illegal has been a severe drain on community resources. Still others do not see a point to imprisoning, and therefore supporting, people who “just want to smoke a joint.” And last of all are those who see marijuana as a medicinal wonder which they see as causing fewer difficulties than the prescription painkillers that have enslaved so many.

One of the big questions regards drug testing for employment purposes and the use of medical marijuana. If a person is legally allowed to use it, can an employer deny him employment for that same usage, when they wouldn’t do that for use of Oxycontin or Percocet or Valium? As of October 2012, seventeen states, including ours, have legalized marijuana for medical purposes.

At this time, the Nevada Supreme Court hasn’t addressed the issue of having a drug-free workplace yet allowing people to use their prescriptions for marijuana. Confusing matters further, the Federal Controlled Substances Act, CSA for short, prohibits the use of marijuana, medical or otherwise, even though eighteen states have allowed for it. Some employers want to call upon that as their higher authority and end the discussion there, terminating those employees.

Here in Nevada a person’s registry identification card removes him from the realm of criminal prosecution. It ensures that a physician has provided written documentation to the health Division of the Department of Health and Human Services, stating the need for this particular treatment. However, our law specifically states that it “does not require any employer to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in the workplace.” Laws in other states also say that they do not regulate private employment.

The next question regards the use of marijuana while one is on one’s own time, and yet it shows up in a random drug testing done at work the next day. Unemployment benefits have also been denied to people who are legally allowed to use marijuana.

It’s still a new territory, and our state and others are still developing policies and procedures that take medical marijuana into consideration, yet do not trample on the rights of employers to ensure a safe work environment.


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