Proposal: Employment Protections for Medical Marijuana Users
In 2016, Florida legalized the medicinal use of marijuana. This raises an important question in the minds of some employees: Can you be fired for using medical marijuana in Florida? As of right now, the answer is “probably”—though, the answer is more complicated because employment law issues always depend on the specific facts of the case.
However, a prominent South Florida lawmaker is proposing new protections for employees. Under Senate Bill 962, which was recently introduced by Florida State Senator Lori Berman (D-Palm Beach County), employers would be strictly forbidden from taking adverse action against an employee simply on the grounds that they use medical marijuana. Here, our West Palm Beach, FL employment lawyers highlight the key elements of the proposed legislation.
The Law Would Bar Adverse Personnel Action Against Medical Marijuana Users
As it is drafted, Senate Bill 962 will make medical marijuana users a protected class for purposes of employment law in Florida. Employers would be barred from taking adverse personnel action against employees and job applicants who are qualified and who admit to using medical marijuana or who test positive for medical marijuana. The term adverse personnel action is defined broadly in the proposed bill. Among other things, it includes:
- Refusal to interview;
- Refusal to hire;
- Reduction in compensation;
- Forced retirement; and
- Any other material and unfavorable change in employment conditions.
Limitations: These Protections Would Apply to Qualified Patients Only
Senate Bill 962 only seeks to provide employment law protections to approved medical marijuana users. The bill uses the term ‘qualified patients’. In Florida, a qualified patient is defined as a person who has official authorization to use medical marijuana and who is using the substance in the approved manner. To be clear, this means that the proposed bill provides no generalized employment law right for non-medical marijuana users. Companies would retain the right to require employees to refrain from using marijuana on a recreational basis.
It is Unclear Whether the Bill Will Gain Traction
At this point, it is unclear how much traction this bill will obtain in the Florida legislature. That being said, it is worth noting that there is precedent for this type of law in other jurisdictions. In recent years, several states around the country, including Arizona and Minnesota, have passed new laws providing explicit employment protections for medical marijuana users. Additionally, Florida lawmakers have consistently eased the state marijuana laws and related regulations. It is possible that this bill could make progress. Our legal team will keep an eye on this and all other developments in employment.
Get Help From a Florida Employment Lawyer Right Away
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our West Palm Beach employment law attorneys are committed to providing proactive, reliable legal representation to employers and employees. If you have questions about medical marijuana use and employment law, we are here to help. To set up a confidential, no commitment employment law consultation, please contact us today. From our offices in Miami and West Palm Beach, we represent clients all around the region.