If you have a medical marijuana card in Arizona, you have certain rights, but those rights have limits. Employers have rights as well, including the right to determine what sort of workplace they wish to establish. Where your rights and restrictions and those of your employer may intersect is the subject of this article.
Protections and Restrictions for Having a Medical Marijuana Card
You are not required to disclose to an existing or prospective employer that you have a medical marijuana card.
Furthermore, a prospective employer in Arizona is not allowed to ask you on a job application or in an interview question whether or not you have a medical marijuana card. He or she can, however, ask if you use marijuana, and if he or she does ask, you should answer honestly, just as you would any other question. That said, you could alternatively refuse to answer the question, since, technically, you need neither admit nor deny that you hold a medical marijuana card.
You may choose to disclose this information to employers, of course, but, if you do, it is presumably to seek some form of accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act. If this is the case, keep in mind that the employer is required to accommodate a legitimate disability, but that such accommodation does not extend to permitting you to use, possess or be under the influence of medical marijuana on the premises or while on the employer’s clock.
If you are not seeking an accommodation for your disability, however, then keep in mind that, even if you have an ADA-protected disability that qualifies you for your medical marijuana card, firing you or taking other negative action against you for being a medical marijuana patient is not likewise protected under the ADA, because it is not your disability but your use of a controlled substance with which the employer is taking issue. That does not, however, mean that an employer has the right to fire you merely for having a medical marijuana card.
An employer cannot, in fact, fire you or take disciplinary action against you merely for having an Arizona medical marijuana card. The AMMA, or Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act, is unique in being the nation’s first law to provide explicit statutory protections for an employee’s medical marijuana cardholder status.
Exceptions to Those Protections
Yur right to have a medical marijuana card and maintain employment in Arizona does not extend to coming to work under the influence of medical marijuana, partaking of medical marijuana while at work or having your work otherwise affected by your medical marijuana use or cardholder status.
If you come to work under the influence of medical marijuana and your employer finds out, or if being under the influence of medical marijuana negative impacts your ability to perform your work as normal and expected, your employer can take appropriate action against you, including firing you.
Otherwise, the only other way an employer in Arizona is legally permitted to fire you merely for possessing a medical marijuana card is if failing to do so would cause the employer to lose a benefit with monetary or licensing value. An example is if the employer is receiving federal funds. Since marijuana, even medical marijuana, is still illegal on a federal level, the employer risks losing those federal funds if he or she retains you as an employee after knowing that you use medical marijuana.
If a prospective employer chooses not to hire you because you acknowledged that you use medical marijuana, that is the employer’s prerogative, as he or she is allowed to maintains a drug-free workplace, and you have no right to sue them for denying you employment.
These rights and restrictions apply to hiring and firing, taking disciplinary action and imposing conditions on employment (other than those imposed on all other employees of the same or related position or work status equally.)
If your employer or a prospective employer drug tests as a condition of getting or maintaining employment, your medical marijuana card does not exempt you from any requirement to submit to such a test so long as it is the same requirement to which all other employees of a similar position or status are beholden. In other words, your employer can neither grant you special treatment nor subject you to discriminatory treatment regarding drug testing.
You, on the other hand, must cooperate with any reasonable request for a drug test. Your medical marijuana card does, however, entitle you to some protections once those drug-test results come back positive. If you have a valid Arizona medical marijuana card, an employer cannot fire or refuse to hire you, take disciplinary action or impose any conditions of employment on you simply for testing positive for any components or metabolites of marijuana. The only exceptions to this protection are if you possessed, used or were impaired by marijuana at your place of employment or while on the clock.
An employer is permitted, under Arizona law, to refuse to place you in a position deemed “safety sensitive” if you are a known marijuana user, and having an Arizona medical marijuana card would qualify you as such. The law defines a safety-sensitive positions as: “any job that requires duties or tasks that could affect the safety or health of the employee performing the task or others.” (azleg.gov/legtext/50leg/1r/bills/hb2541h.pdf)
Considering the broadness of this definition, an employer could stretch the limits of a reasonable interpretation of safety sensitivity to apply to positions and employees or prospective employees whenever it serves that employer. While a medical marijuana cardholder could try to sue that employer for employment discrimination in such an instance, it could be very hard to get the case seen in court, let alone decided in the medical marijuana cardholder’s favor.
It can be challenging to prove employment discrimination against a medical marijuana patient, and even harder to get a court to find cause to award monetary damages. Considering the cost of such lawsuits, the effort would be unlikely to yield fruitful results, whether in the form of restored employment or recompense.