Friday, January 29, 2010

Medical pot in the workplace?

As medical marijuana use becomes more prevalent, a host of issues has
arisen, including this one: Can you light up at work?

As detailed in a Denver Post story by John Ingold, medical pot users are
running afoul of workplace anti-drug policies as employers scramble to
figure out how to handle employees who are legal patients.

Employers ought to have wide latitude in determining whether their
employees can be under the influence of anything while on the job.

For some jobs, it may have little impact whether someone has recently
smoked a joint. But for others, it could be critically important for
employees to be clear-minded and alert.

You wouldn't want someone operating heavy equipment, especially in the
vicinity of other workers, if that person's reflexes were impaired. It
could cost someone their life.

Employers should be able to make that call without running afoul of the

The fact that this has the potential to be a broad problem, we suspect,
is rooted in the number of patients who've received bogus medical
marijuana designations. Few people who are in severe chronic pain, the
most popular reason cited by people seeking medical marijuana
certification, are likely to be in any condition to work.

If you need to smoke a few joints a day just to get by, perhaps allowing
you to cut back on your prescription pain pills, it seems like it would
be quite difficult to work as well.

That is, unless you're not really medically needy and are just looking
for a backdoor way to smoke pot without getting arrested. Then,
workplace rules could be a problem for a wide swath of medical pot

Still, we can envision how workplace anti-drug rules could be an issue
for what we suspect are a relative few people who can find enough relief
in medical marijuana to be able to hold a job. Medical marijuana as
ensconced in the state constitution protects the right for qualified
people to use it.

However, that right has to be weighed against the rights of others in
the workplace, and elsewhere for that matter. Would it be fair for
teachers to come to work stoned?

Furthermore, the medical marijuana amendment also says this about its
use in the workplace: "Nothing in this section shall require any
employer to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in any workplace."

Does "accommodate" mean employers don't have to provide a pot-smoking
lounge? Or does it mean employers don't have to "accommodate" users by
changing anti-drug policies?

It's likely these and other issues will be litigated and worked out
through the courts over time. We also believe that tightening up the
abuse of the medical marijuana system will eliminate a lot of potential
conflict, and we have urged state lawmakers to do so this year.

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