Can I Be Fired for Having a Medical Marijuana Prescription in Florida?

That’s a question on many people’s minds these days. The legalization of marijuana in some states and legalizing it for medicinal purposes in others have brought up all sorts of legal questions like,

“What if I’m traveling from one state where it’s not legal to one it is?”

“Can I take it with me?”

Medical marijuana is a bit different and here’s why. In Florida, as of the summer of 2016 when the first medicinal marijuana dispensary opened in Tallahassee,only 25 doctors were legally able to write prescriptions for it, even though the Compassionate Cannabis Medical Act was signed into law in 2014. We’re a little bit behind making medical marijuana prescriptions widely available.

But let’s say your doctor is one of the 25.

Currently, there aren’t any protections for employees. Employers can still prohibit drug use by employees even if it’s medically prescribed. They can also test for drugs, especially when drug use could cause safety risks like in the operation of heavy machinery. Companies are allowed to legally have a zero-tolerance drug policy. This can lead to the dismissal of good employees.

In the 2015 session, a Michigan state representative looked to combat that with a bill that would protect employees from being fired due to medical marijuana usage. House Bill 5161 would prohibit employers from firing or “taking adverse employment action” against employees who are lawful medical marijuana patients unless that employee’s use of medical cannabis interferes or hinders their job performance.” However, the bill appears to have died in committee.

Washington State and Medical Marijuana

In a precedent-setting case in Washington state, an employee was made a job offer contingent on a drug test. When it came back positive, he was dismissed from training and the offer was revoked. He took his claim all the way to the State Supreme Court, where it found “…the law provides an affirmative defense against criminal or civil prosecution for medical marijuana use under state law, but it does not contain a private cause of action of applicants or employees against their employers.” A surprising decision from a state where recreational use is legal.

While Michigan and Washington are a long way from Florida, our employees are at the same risks as theirs.

In the Sunshine State, an employee can be fired for failing a drug test. One of the issues with marijuana is that it stays in the system for several weeks and can show up on drug tests long after it was consumed (in the case of medical marijuana).

As you can see, the simple answer today is that employees and job candidates can be released from employment, or job offers rescinded, even with a medical marijuana prescription. But “today” applies to the time of this writing. The 2016 election brought some of the biggest electoral victories for marijuana to date. California, Massachusetts, and Nevada passed recreational use initiatives and there were big wins on extending medicinal marijuana use in North Dakota and Arkansas.

The 2016 election saw 71% of Florida voters in favor of medical marijuana as Florida became the 26th state in the country to permit eligible users to obtain and use medical marijuana without fear of state prosecution. With the new section of the Florida Constitution, medical marijuana cards will be issued to eligible and approved citizens and their caretakers.

If you feel your rights have been violated, if you’ve been charged with drug possession or received a marijuana citation, or want to know more about how Florida decriminalization of marijuana can alter your case, contact Dean Tsourakis today at 727-785-2700. The initial consultation is free