Medical Marijuana at Work?

April 17, 2007

Kristin Edelhauser, Entrepreneur

The use of medical marijuana is a controversial issue across the country. But now, workplaces in states that permit medical marijuana use are entering unknown territory as they debate whether employees should be allowed to use the drug on the job.

This situation poses both a legal and ethical dilemma for companies as they try to maintain a zero-tolerance drug-use policy and comply with state legislation at the same time. Some companies are choosing to ignore their state's decision to allow the use of medical marijuana and are firing employees who test positive for the drug. For instance, one company in Oregon, Columbia Forest Products, has faced legal action for having company rules that go against Oregon's medical marijuana law.

For many companies, liability is another issue to contend with. For example, should medical marijuana laws protect employers if an employee using marijuana makes a mistake on the job or injures someone? On the other hand, some companies have accepted the use of medical marijuana by workers, as long as they continue to do a good job. In the meantime, the debate continues. "We know [employers] are looking for clear answers, and there's not one out there right now," said Richard Meneghello, an employment lawyer who speaks to companies on the topic. "Employers are living in a dangerous situation."

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