Businesses, employees, and the questions surrounding medical marijuana

On July 1, medical marijuana will become legal in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Though that date is fast approaching, there are still some questions surrounding how it will all play out, and many have to do with the workplace:

The Minnesota Medical Marijuana Act makes it illegal to ever penalize people for lawfully using marijuana, right?

No. You can still face trouble. The Act only changes the law so it is no longer a crime to use marijuana for certain medical purposes. However, there are some extra protections built into the law to prevent discrimination at work (see next question).

Can employers refuse jobs to, or fire, people who test positive for marijuana— and are legally using it?

Almost always not. Minnesota is one of a handful of states that prohibits employers from refusing to hire, or firing, people solely for failing drug tests as long as the people were legally using the medical marijuana.

"Certainly, under Minnesota law, any drug policy that blanketly prohibits testing positive for marijuana or blanketly uses that for termination will need to be redressed," said Laurie Jirak, an employment attorney at Felhaber Larson.

What about employers that are required to keep drug-free workplaces in order to keep their license, or by federal law, regulation, or contract?

Employers that must keep drug-free workplaces because of federal laws or regulations generally can refuse to hire, or fire, people for failing drug tests — even when the use was legal.

Assuming I get enrolled in the state registry, can I take medical marijuana at work?

No! You still cannot use medical marijuana, or ever be impaired by marijuana, while at work.

Are employers now required to allow marijuana use as an accommodation to a disability?

While the federal American Disability Act requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, it does not require employers to allow medical marijuana use as an accommodation since marijuana remains illegal under federal law. However, it is possible that Minnesota's Human Right Act might require the employer to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee enrolled in the registry.

Right now, my company policy is to refuse to hire, and to fire, anyone who fails a drug test. Do I need to change it?

Most likely, according to attorneys who spoke with Fox 9.

"Certainly employers can still administer drug tests. But what they do with the results will have to change, said Laurie Jirak. She added, "certain actions they used to take, they're used to taking as a result of a positive drug test, they can no longer. They really need to evaluate each positive drug test."

But, under federal law, marijuana use is still a crime — for medical reasons or not — right?

True. And that's why attorneys believe the courts will have to reconcile a variety of federal laws and regulations with a patchwork of state laws on medical marijuana.

I'd sure like to read the law's rules on the workplace. Where can I get it?

Right here: